Since its launch in January of this year, the City’s Housing First Program has given affordable housing to 16 people who once lived on the streets.
Although just over 100 people are on a wait list for the program, it has changed the life of one client who has received support since January. Quint Parker struggled to find a stable place to live after he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and Bi-Polar Disorder in 1997. Parker says the Housing First Program breathes new life into him. “It has helped me so much, they’re good workers, they’re good ladies,” he said.
The Association Advocating for Women and Children (AWAC) runs the program and is the only organization in Prince George to receive Housing First support from the federal government. Prince George through the United Way of Northern BC has received $335, 158 of the Homelessness Partnering Strategy Fund each year since 2014. In the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 fiscal years, an additional $167, 579 will go to Prince George with a portion of those funds going to housing initiatives.
Additional funding from the federal government is expected said Executive Director with AWAC, Connie Abe. “We have been recommended to continue the Housing First program, so right now our focus is on building relationships with the landlord and that’s huge because a lot of the landlords right now aren’t really necessarily open to housing the individuals that we’re housing.”
Abe added that Housing First is only for the chronically homeless and works towards giving people the life skills needed to get back on their feet. She says outreach workers meet with clients a couple of times each week. “The Housing First worker identifies some of the areas they need supports in, whether it’s doctor’s appointments, getting on income assistance or anything like that, then the Housing First worker builds that relationship.”
For Parker, that support has helped him find a home at the Northern Breeze Inn and helped him him to identify the changes he needed to make to keep his home. “They help you to try to relieve you of stress, and talk to you,” he said. “They tell you that you’re a valued person, and that you mean something to society and that you do belong and they make me feel like I am worth something.”
Abe said the hope is to help more people like Parker in the future. “Once they’re stable and they’re comfortable, then we want to transfer them over to AWAC’s outreach team so that they can provide the supports that they need because those supports will dwindle off as time goes and then we can start housing more people from the wait list.”