Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cabinet Minister Heads to U.S. to Laud Canadian Efforts on Homelessness

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cabinet Minister Heads to U.S. to Laud Canadian Efforts on Homelessness

Article excerpt

Bergen in U.S. to tout homelessness efforts

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OTTAWA - Canada's minister of state for social development is heading to Chicago on Wednesday to tout Canada as an emerging world leader in the battle against homelessness.

Candice Bergen is slated to address the international Housing First conference on Thursday after a day of meetings with anti-homelessness advocates on the opening day of the event. The conference is sponsored in part this year by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"My message is that with the Housing First focus, Canada is leading the way when it comes to fighting homelessness," Bergen said in an interview on the eve of her trip to the U.S.

"The investments we're making we believe, over time, will reduce the rate of homelessness."

The international community is particularly interested in hearing about Canada's At Home-Chez Soi pilot project, Bergen says, because of its size, scope and success rate in getting people off the streets permanently. The pilot project ended a year ago.

The program, run by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, helped find and pay for homes for mentally ill homeless people in five cities across Canada. At Home-Chez Soi also provided recipients with as many social services as they needed to stay housed.

The government surprised anti-poverty advocates in its 2013 budget by announcing a five-year renewal of funding for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which is using the same Housing First approach that made At Home-Chez Soi such a success.

Some on the front lines of Canada's homelessness have praised the funding renewal -- and the Housing First principle -- as game-changers in the fight given they target the neediest Canadians.

The chronically or episodically homeless -- many of them mentally ill -- comprise only 15 per cent of Canada's total homeless population, but they take up the lion's share of resources for those living on the streets.

Far more Canadians, however, find themselves homeless simply because of changes in economic circumstances. …

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