In Other News...
'The solution to homelessness is housing'
Chris Gorman of the Saint John Human Development Council standing outside an apartment on Prince Edward Street that will house one of six homeless individuals by Sept. 1.
SAINT JOHN • Six more individuals will have a place to call home by the time September rolls around, thanks to a housing project that launched in late December 2018.
What first began as a three-month pilot project that saw 22 homeless people fast-tracked out of shelters and off the street has become a long-term project aimed at putting an end to chronic homelessness in Saint John, according to Chris Gorman of Saint John's Human Development Council.
"We started fast and small, and now we need it to be ... a true long-term sustained model of how we approach homelessness in the community," Gorman said.
The initiative involves representatives from multiple agencies and community organizations – the Human Development Council, the Department of Social Development, Housing Alternatives Inc., Outflow Ministry, Coverdale Centre for Women, Fresh Start Services for Women, Safe Harbour House, Horizon Health Network and the New Brunswick Association for Community Living.
Landlord Gordon Ferris is also involved, offering up apartment units at a discounted rate to provide permanent homes for Saint John's most vulnerable.
The collective meets every Thursday to discuss ways to address homelessness in the city. At their most recent meeting, Gorman said they were able to match six people to new units, which they will be able to move into by Sept. 1.
The team uses a “by-name list,” or a document that lists homeless individuals by name with all the data that they can track about them, which is then shared among the social service agencies.
According to Gorman, they were able to figure out from the pilot project how to best filter through people on the list in an “equitable, fair way” to decide who to house first, whenever a unit becomes available.
They typically narrow it down to people who have been homeless for an extended period of time or are living outside and have no other form of shelter. Women who are pregnant are also fast-tracked.
“It’s essentially ranking who is the most vulnerable today,” Gorman said, noting that it could change within a matter of days, given a homeless individual’s circumstances.
Currently, they have about 110 homeless people in Saint John on their radar and on their by-name list.
Gorman said they have successfully kept 40 people housed since the initiative first launched.
The group's goal is to work with the Department of Social Development to secure about 35 rent supplements each year and bring more community partners to the table, including other landlords to offer up units for government-subsidized living. They also recently posted a position for a housing co-ordinator who will engage more landlords in the project, Gorman said.
“The solution to homelessness is housing, so we need more units."
Gorman said although they will likely be able to house another 20 people by the end of the year, there will still be about 90 people that they won't be able to house – due to a lack of units available – who will have to suffer the brunt of a cold winter.
"I feel hopeful that our process and approach is the absolute right approach ... but I feel scared it's not going to be nearly enough for this winter," he said.
'Wise investment in youth training'
The loss of young people to other jurisdictions is one of Saint John’s biggest challenges. The inability of many young people to get the skills they need to fill available jobs means the city is losing the people it needs to build the future.
Not only is it an economic loss for the city and a contributor to the shrinking tax base, but too many families have to watch as their children grow up and leave Saint John in search of better opportunities elsewhere.
More must be done to match youth to jobs through better training. To this end, Ottawa is investing $2.7 million in Saint John programs to help young people improve their skills for the workforce. It’s a package the local Human Development Council welcomes as new hope for youth in the region.
We agree it’s a wise plan, both for its intentions and its design. Funding will go to the Teen Resource Centre, Saint John Learning Exchange, Outflow and the Saint John Community Loan Fund. Already 100 people have signed up for the programs.
The program is designed in a versatile way so local operations that see results will get more money to do what works over time. This is far better than simply throwing money at a problem and waiting to see what happens.
‘This project will change lives and save lives’
ROBERT WILLIAMS TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL
Brayden Ryan, 18, is taking part in a 10-month carpentry module program at the Outflow Training and Employment Building.
PHOTO: ROBERT WILLIAMS/ TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL
SAINT JOHN • Ever y Thursday, Brayden Ryan gets a second chance.
Housed in the basement of Outflow’s Training and Employment Building on Waterloo Street, Ryan is taking part in a 10-module carpentry class for youth.
“I know how to use everything in there now,”said Ryan.“So lately I’ve been helping other people with their stuff.”
Ryan is 18, and is working to learn the skills necessary to land a job in the construction industry. A new federal funding announcement might be his ticket.
Major funding announcement
MP Wayne Long was at the Outflow building on Thursday to announce an investment of $2.7 million for the Human Development Council’s UYES! project.
The initiative takes four principle partners in the community that are already doing “incredible work,” according to Human Development Council executive director Randy Hatfield,and allows them to scale up.
Funding will go to the Teen Resource Centre, Saint John Learning Exchange, Outflow and the Saint John Community Loan Fund. As of Thursday, 100 people have signed up for the programs.
“You need people on the ground to make these things move,” said Hatfield. “It’s basically using innovation money and scaling up what works.”
The goal is to take youth, identify the barriers they are facing, work on their soft skills, pre-employment courses, academic upgrading, and eventually try to attach them to the labour force.
Hatfield stressed it’s an individualized program that “taps the experts that are doing the work.”
Jayme Hall is the executive director of Outflow, and played a lead role in creating Catapult Construction and setting up the carpentry course.
Two carpenters work in the facility full-time, and help the students as they make their way through the modules.
He said it takes a “teach a man to fish” approach, and is working to become a sustainable operation with the help of this investment.
Two-and-a-half year process
Procuring the finances from the federal government has been a journey in itself, explained Long. It’s taken two-and-a-half years spanning two ministers, a disappearance of the project altogether, kicking down doors, and then finally getting it back on the rails.
“This project will change lives and save lives in this community,” said Long.“We can make good things happen.”
He made the announcement Thursday on behalf of Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. She said in a statement “supporting youth as they transition into the workforce and giving them the training they need to succeed is a key way in which we can grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.”
Saint John Mayor Don Darling, who has a background in the construction industry, noted on a tour of the Outflow facility how reassuring it is to see an equal number of women working in the carpentry program.
“It’s incredibly positive,” said Darling. “I’m excited to see these projects come together and actually thrive off each other and drive the outcomes to an even higher level of success.”
As for Ryan, he’s now completed his third module, and is working toward finishing the program.
If all goes according to plan, he said his goal is to eventually land a job with Catapult Construction.
Priority neighbourhood voters ‘could change the outcome of the election’
BARBARA SIMPSON TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL
Around the Block newspaper carrier Karen Rodgerson delivers a special provincial election issue to residents of the Crescent Valley neighbourhood. PHOTO: BARBARA SIMPSON/TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL
Around the Block coordinator Juanita Black and social researcher Natalia Hicks review a draft of the community newspaper’s provincial election issue. PHOTO: BARBARA SIMPSON/TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL
SAINT JOHN • Mike Randall works two jobs to keep his family’s heads above water.
By day, the 39-year-old Saint Johner works as a housekeeper at St. Joseph’s Hospital. By night, he’s a clerk at a neighbourhood gas station.
His family lives in a rental townhouse off of Churchill Boulevard in one of the city’s low-income neighbourhoods.
“(Politicians) forget about the middle class,” he said, as he struggled to unload groceries from his car.
Randall has lost his optimism about the future of the province.
His son, an electrician, moved to Ontario because he couldn’t find an apprenticeship. His daughter plans to head west after she graduates from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.
“She couldn’t find a part-time job even though she’s in advanced French,” he said.
But despite his pessimism, Randall plans to vote Sept. 24 – almost a radical action in the riding of Saint John Harbour he calls home.
More than 50 per cent of eligible Saint John Harbour voters didn’t cast their ballots in the 2014 provincial election. It was a similar story in the riding of Portland Simonds, with voter turnout hovering around 50 per cent.
Saint John Harbour is home to three of the city’s five priority neighbourhoods – Waterloo Village, the lower west side and the city’s south end. Portland Simonds picks up the remaining two neighbourhoods, Crescent Valley and the old north end.
While there isn’t a definitive correlation between low voter turnout and the socioeconomic makeup of these ridings, Crescent Valley resident Juanita Black said her experience has been priority neighbourhood residents “seem to not go out and vote.”
“Those tend to be the people who don’t think their voices matter, but they do, they really do,” said Black, who is co-ordinator of Around the Block.
The free community newspaper has rolled out its special provincial election issue. More than 5,000 copies of the issue were delivered last week to residents in the city’s five priority neighbourhoods.
The issue is a primer in everything from how to register to vote and the slate of local candidates through to the responsibilities of each level of government in Canada.
“The idea with this is it gives them all the tools to vote,” said Natalia Hicks, social researcher with the Saint John Human Development Council.
Executive director Randy Hatfield said the development council has made a concerted effort to raise civic engagement through a special election newspaper and participating in all-candidates’ public forums.
“We’ve been struck over the years by some polling that says there tends to be lower voter turnout because in some cases, people didn’t know how to vote or where to vote or that there was an election,” he said.
Part of raising voter turnout will require making the process easier, he said, but part of it will be restoring trust in the political system.
“You have to have a sense of hope that exercising your franchise is going to make a difference,” he said.
“If you sit back and you really think, ‘OK, it’s Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum’... and we don’t have a system that responds to the needs of low-income people or people who are vulnerable or marginalized, it’s pretty hard to get them out to vote.”
‘There’s a gap for the working poor’
Angela MacDonald has the only election sign on her street.
On her tidy front yard waves the face of NDP leader Jennifer McKenzie on orange bristol board.
“There’s a gap for the working poor and she seems to have ideas to help that,” said MacDonald, who recently had a visit from McKenzie at her door.
A single mother of two, MacDonald is struggling to make ends meet with her limited income.
The 48-year-old is a daycare worker currently off the job due to illness. She relies on income assistance and worker’s compensation to get by – the former of which is clawed back due to the latter.
Affordable childcare has been a concern of hers for years, with two children under the age of 10.
She received an estimate of $165 a week for after-school care for each of her children.
“There’s a lot and so I can’t really do that,” said MacDonald, who lives a few blocks down from Randall.
But she hasn’t given up hope on a brighter future.
She continues to vote to set an example for her two children.
She wants to show them the value of being engaged in the democratic process.
“People have fought really hard to have these rights,” she said. “We see people coming every day from Syria who don’t have these rights.”
Priority neighbourhood voters also have a lot at stake in the provincial election. Subsidized housing, daycare subsidies and social assistance all fall under the mandate of the provincial government.
In the 2014 election, Liberal candidate Ed Doherty beat Progressive Conservative candidate Carl Killen by 71 votes in the Saint John Harbour riding.
If priority neighbourhood voters can get engaged en masse, Hicks said their impact would be sizable in the election, especially in hotly contested ridings like Saint John Harbour.
“They could change the outcome of the election.”