… we situate homelessness prevention within a human rights framework and argue that homelessness is not a choice and that access to safe, affordable, and appropriate housing is a right.
Over the past 15 years – and even more recently in Canada – there has been a welcome shift to considering how to help people, and in particular, those who are chronically homeless to exit
homelessness, and hopefully never return.
The embracing of Housing First both at the community level and by government is welcome because not only is it a humane and effective client-centered approach, but there is considerable evidence to support it. The broader (but incomplete) adoption of Housing First also represents a paradigm shift in how we have responded to homelessness in Canada and the United States. While pointing to how to help people successfully exit homelessness, it tells us little about how to stem the flow into it. Can we ever truly end homelessness if we don’t sufficiently consider addressing the pipeline into homelessness, through a focus on prevention?
This document attempts to answer the question: What do we mean by the prevention of homelessness?
While there is no doubt that in recent years there has been more discussion about the need to consider and address the prevention of homelessness, this has occurred in a context in which
there is a considerable lack of clarity about what it means, whether it works, how we measure it, and who is responsible for it. The definition and typology presented here serves several purposes
for people in the community – service providers, activists, people:
- First, the framework seeks to provide definitional clarity.
- Our second purpose is to assess the evidence base for homelessness prevention.
- Third, we have sought to frame homelessness prevention in a way that moves us away from seeing the homelessness sector as exclusively responsible for addressing homelessness.
Adopting a human rights approach means thinking differently about homelessness, it means housing is something that everyone deserves simply by virtue of being human. A human rights perspective means addressing systematic inequalities that lead to homelessness. This requires us to look beyond the homelessness sector as the only responder, and instead create an integrative response that engages with numerous systems, including health, education, criminal justice, child protections, and others. Above all, a human rights framework recognizes that supporting people to access and maintain housing before they experience homelessness is the right thing to do.
A New Direction: A Framework for Homelessness Prevention is put forward with the intention of beginning a broader, national conversation. It cannot be considered the final word on the subject, but rather a way to frame future conversations, discussions, and decisions at the community level, within all orders and departments of government, amongst people with lived experience, and with funders. In the coming years we anticipate that our conceptual framing will evolve. In Canada, we need people to take up the issue of homelessness prevention across the country; to hone and sharpen our thinking about how to provide it. We need to continue research to identify more effective responses. We need to demand that government enact policies and legislation and provide new funding to support homelessness prevention.
SOURCE: Stephen Gaetz & Erin Dej. (2017). A New Direction: A Framework for Homelessness Prevention. Toronto: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press.
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia