The IHSP “Policy Collaboratives” are cross-sectoral research/policy/community working groups of individuals and organizations working together to respond to a pressing real world challenge.
The McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy and the Old Brewery Mission are coming together to lead a cross-sectoral policy collaborative focused on homelessness prevention. The collaborative, composed of members from academic, government, and civil society institutions, will consider options and develop evidence-based recommendations for tangibly advancing policy reform in support of homelessness prevention.
Homeless people all start as people at risk of homelessness. While each individual’s story is different, we know that many of the experiences that precede an episode of homelessness are the same, for example, with eviction, domestic violence, addiction, mental health, and contact with public institutions. A release from a hospital, the child welfare system or a public health institution, as examples, lead all-too-often to a direct trip to a homeless shelter. In an effort to prevent homelessness before it occurs, interventions need to be placed at the source of these trajectories, as opposed to at the entrance of a shelter. These interventions require the accountability of different actors and institutions namely, governments and public institutions.
While the structural entries into homelessness are well-understood, policy responses for ensuring that governments and public services are accountable to preventing service users’ homelessness are limited in Quebec. What changes to law and regulation are necessary to mandate governments and public institutions to assess and intervene to prevent homelessness? Considering, for example, how child protection services are mandated to assess for abuse, negligence and the risk; how can other entities be held legally responsible for interventions with potentially homeless clients? Can the Régie du Logement be challenged to ensure that evicted tenants are housed? What is the public cost for intervening at the source of homelessness versus intervening once an individual is already homeless? As the current homelessness crisis and costs for emergency interventions, such as homeless shelters, grow in Quebec, there is a critical need for examining and advocating for prevention strategies.
Looking forward, prevention strategies could include housing for individuals at-risk of homelessness incorporated into public institutions; for example, housing directly associated with hospitals and prisons for this purpose. Other prospective interventions could include improved continuum of care approaches for youth being phased out of the child welfare systems and accelerated social housing placement for evicted tenants. Inherently, these solutions require the coordination of governments and public institutions and as such, require potentially complex policy reforms.
With these questions and potential avenues for interventions, the Homelessness Prevention Policy Collaborative will consider options and develop evidence-based policy recommendations for tangibly advancing policy reform in support of homelessness prevention.