Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tories Praised for Efforts to Combat Problem of Homeless Canadians

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tories Praised for Efforts to Combat Problem of Homeless Canadians

Article excerpt

Tories praised for efforts on homelessness

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OTTAWA - The Conservative government is getting high marks from a non-profit group that fights homelessness, as an estimated 30,000 people sleep on Canada's streets each night.

At a conference on homelessness, a keynote speaker had praise for an otherwise embattled government's commitment to the issue.

"The policy shift that the federal government announced in its budget this year is going to radically overhaul Canada's response to homelessness," Tim Richter, head of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, said Monday.

"It changes our efforts from simply a response to an emergency situation to one that focuses on permanent housing for chronically homeless people.

"We've not seen anything like it in the past. It's really going to shape how communities respond to homelessness in the future."

Candice Bergen, social development minister since July, affirmed that solving homelessness remains a priority.

"Our goal and our desire is to equip and empower people to lift themselves out of poverty and out of these difficult situations," she said in an interview.

"The ultimate goal is to see them fully participating in society and having the joy of full employment. That's the desire of most everyone."

The critical piece of the strategy, Bergen said, is Housing First, a program that finds residences for the homeless with no strings attached.

The government surprised anti-poverty advocates in its March budget by announcing a five-year renewal of funding for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy.

The budget cited evidence from a massive pilot project, run by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, that helped find and pay for homes for mentally ill homeless people in five cities across Canada. The pilot also provided recipients with as many social services they needed to stay housed.

Bergen said that in Montreal, 80 per cent of those who enrolled in the program two years ago are still housed, and receiving treatment for their mental-health issues.

Vancouver's mayor, Gregor Robertson, launched a campaign Monday calling on the federal government to develop a long-term housing plan as polls suggest a third of Canadian families struggle to afford housing. …

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