The Affordable Housing and Homelessness Working Group
Research Projects, Plans and Homelessness Counts
The Affordable Housing and Homelessness Working Group (AHHWG) has taken a leadership role in both understanding and addressing homelessness and affordable housing in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The committee began in the fall of 2015 when the Community Advisory on Homelessness Board (CAB) provided funding for Cape Breton Community Housing Association to initiate a Housing First readiness plan for the area. A steering committee of stakeholders including representatives from Public Health, Cape Breton Regional Police, the CAB, Cape Breton University, CBRM council member and Cape Breton Community Housing Association entered into a partnership to undertake research in affordable housing and homelessness. Since 2015, the working group has provided guidance and oversight on a number of research projects and has engaged the community through workshops and presentations on homelessness and affordable housing in the CBRM.
A Municipal Primer on Affordable Housing
As part of an engagement strategy on affordable housing need in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, the AHHWG developed a primer for its council members. The Primer reviews what core housing need and provides a toolbox of potential strategies and bylaws that could promote and facilitate the development of affordable housing in the CBRM.
The Affordable Housing and Homelessness Working Group (AHHWG)
The Affordable Housing and Homelessness Working Group (AHHWG) in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) decided to develop a Service Based Count Toolkit for two reasons - in part to document the CBRM study of counting and understanding homelessness, and in part to share this method with other communities, along with tips and lessons learned. The Service Based Count (SBC) takes a community development approach to look at homelessness by working in partnership with many organizations and agencies that provide services and supports to those living with homelessness in the community. The Tool Kit was developed by working group members Peggy Vassallo and Janet Bickerton with Public Health and Lila Roy, Cape Breton University.
Impacts of COVID-19 on the Housing Insecure and Homeless in CBRM
On March 22, 2020, the Province of Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Over the following weeks, businesses, organizations, government offices, and schools were closed to the public. People were told to STAY HOME. This had a devastating impact to those who were experiencing homelessness and who were housing insecure. Many members of the AHHWG joined with community partners to address the lack of resources. Over the months in 2020, funding from various government levels and other sources helped with personal protective equipment, food supply, comfort centres, public toilets and more. In September 2020, the COVID-19 Working Group surveyed 110 individuals in the community to find out more about how COVID-19 impacted their lives.
The Affordable Housing and Homelessness Newsletters
Developed by the Healthy Communities Team at Public Health with management and oversight of content material provided by the Working Group, the newsletter is a communication tool that seeks to engage and network with community stakeholders and provide articles on affordable housing and homelessness research and projects.
Youth Homelessness Development Plan
Working with the Cape Breton Youth Homelessness Initiative, the working group provides feedback and guidance on the development of a community youth homelessness plan. The plan was developed as a tool to inform next steps in addressing youth homelessness in CBRM.
Mapping Deprivation Project
Led by Catherine Leviten-Reid and Laura Syms at CBU, and with research assistance from Melanie MacDonald, the working group assisted with identifying and categorizing community points of contact through a social determinates of health lens. This project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
The goal of this project was to understand where lower cost rental housing is located within the CBRM vis-à-vis neighbourhood poverty and important amenities and services. This research found that almost half of all lower-cost market rentals are located in communities outside of Sydney, and that these units aren’t walkable to locations including grocery stores, laudromats, health care services and recreational facilities (with the exception of parks). This research also found that 42% of low-cost market rental units in the municipality are located in neighbourhoods with high economic and social deprivation.
Video - Youth Homelessness in CBRM is largely hidden.
To gain a better understanding of this pressing issue, Cape Breton Community Housing in partnership with Youth Housing and Homelessness Programs Initiative and the AHHWG talked to local youth about their experiences with homelessness.
Affordable Housing and Homelessness Situational Analysis
The AHHWG engaged with the community and developed a document detailing the housing situation and possible actionable items based on gaps and need around affordable housing and homelessness in the CBRM.
Service Based Count (April 2018)
The four week study identified 278 individuals who were experiencing homelessness from 51 participating organizations, departments and agencies with in CBRM. 35% of people were either unsheltered or staying in an emergency shelter. 34% were temporarily staying with another person or in transitional housing and 26% were in institutions or facilities with no permanent address to return.
Point in Time Count (April 2018)
This one day count found that 29 individuals were using shelters or were reportedly unsheltered that night, while an additional 28 individuals were temporarily staying with friends or were transitionally housed elsewhere. (Additionally, 58 people were provisionally housed in addiction treatment centres, hospitals, police custody or jail or half way house.)
Tenant Study (September 2016)
Completed by Dr. Catherine Leviten-Reid and Bridget Horel of Cape Breton University, the study reported on the background and experiences of individuals living in rental units and rooming houses in the CBRM.
Leviten-Reid, C., Matthew, R. & Wardley, P. (2019). Sense of community belonging: Exploring the impact of housing quality, affordability, and safety among renter households, Journal of Community Practice, 28:1, 18-35, DOI: 10.1080/10705422.2020.1718050
Rental Market Inventory Study (September 2016)
Led by Dr. Catherine Leviten-Reid and Bridget Horel of Cape Breton University, the study provided an in-depth inventory and analysis of rental housing stock in the CBRM (public, non-profit and for-profit). Among other things, the research pointed to the limited opportunities for subsidized and market based housing for single, non senior individuals; a large percentage of rental housing in the secondary market (and so not captured in CMHC rental market reports); and limited (and costly) accessible units. Shelter costs (rent and utilities) were also found to be much higher than shelter allowances provided by the province.
Leviten-Reid, C., Horel, B., Matthew, R., Deveaux, F., & Vassallo, P. (2019). Strong foundations: Building community through improved rental housing data. Journal of Rural and Community Development, 74-86. (https://cbufaces.cairnrepo.org/islandora/object/cbu%3A1799)
Service Based Count (April 2016)
Led by Janet Bickerton and Natalie Oake of Public Health, a month long count identified 304 individuals experiencing homelessness; data were collected through service contacts with 40 agencies in the municipality. This project was developed by the working group with Public Health as lead partner.
Point in Time Count (April 2016)
A one day homeless count found 54 individuals were using emergency shelters or were reportedly unsheltered, while an additional 47 individuals were temporarily staying with friends or were transitionally housed elsewhere. (Additionally 36 people were provisionally housed in addiction treatment centres, hospitals, police custody or jail or half way house.)