Homelessness alliance issues report

Report card focuses on education, seeking to create a tipping point in attitudes about homelessness and related issues

The second annual report card on homelessness in Simcoe County will be released April 15, with advocates seeking a tipping point in the drive to help people, especially women, living on the streets.
The Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness report, ‘The Tipping Point – Women and Homelessness,’ is set to be released 11:30 a.m. at the Salvation Army in Collingwood. The report takes its title from Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell’s book, ‘The Tipping Point,’ which maintains a tipping point arrives on societal issues that lead to changes in attitudes.
Through the report, which focuses on education, the alliance and other advocates for the homeless hope for a tipping point in the attitudes of county residents, with the result that they recognize the importance of ending homelessness.
The report card cites the findings of the Ontario Women’s Health Network’s research bulletin on key issues, including:
• Homeless women are 10 times more likely to die prematurely than women with homes.
• Of women living on the streets, 21 percent were sexually assaulted or raped in the past year.
• As many as 66 percent of women living on the streets said they were doing so because of a lack of affordable rents or eviction.
• More than half of the women on the streets have been diagnosed with mental health issues – primarily severe depression and anxiety. Two percent suffer from schizophrenia.
“The studies show that most homeless women live on the streets because they cannot afford rent and/or have been evicted,” said Trevor Lester, chair of the alliance. “They are 10 times more likely to die early than women with homes, have a one-in-five chance of being raped or sexually assaulted in the next year, and more than half suffer from mental health issues – primarily severe depression or anxiety.”
Despite the alarming numbers, there has been progress over the past five years, said Lester. Initiatives include the county’s new affordable housing program, funded by the feds and the province, to create more than 413 new affordable housing units since 2003.
The program has also contributed more than $750,000 this year to help prevent homelessness through projects like drop-in centres, mobile outreach services, transitional housing, housing support services, community meals and soup kitchens, and food bank support.
“We are encouraged by this response to the dire need of affordable housing and supports in our communities. We continue to maintain that providing housing and supports is the least costly and most effective way to end homelessness,” said Lester.
At the releasing of the report card, Lester will be joined by Doris Sensenberger, executive director of Home Horizons, and Gail Michalenko, executive director of Georgian Triangle Housing Resource Centre. For more information, contact Lester at 705-722-3700, ext. 243.

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