At Adsum, we are privileged to meet incredibly resilient and awe-inspiring women. Many are mothers who have assumed the huge responsibility of being the primary caregiver for their children. A few have partners, but most are raising their children on their own, often on limited resources and with varying levels of support, if any, from their extended families.
While Adsum House shelters mothers and children who are in crisis, we know that emergency shelter is not the ideal solution for them. For that reason, we started a new program called ‘Diverting Families from Shelter to Home’. It works directly with single parents and two-parent families and their children who are in crisis due to homelessness or impending homelessness. We seek to address their immediate need for safe emergency housing and longer term secure housing by offering a variety of interventions ranging from eviction prevention and rapid re-housing services to ongoing outreach support to families to maintain housing. We know there is no ‘one size fits all’; each family’s needs are unique to the family. Some families need a relatively small amount of support while others need more intensive support over a longer period of time to settle in, and remain permanently housed. Our goals are to avoid any stay in a traditional emergency shelter wherever possible, and to minimize the number of moves that children have to experience. The results we are seeing are very promising.
From September 2017 to March 2019, Diverting Families provided housing support to 60 families. We housed 48 of those families; and 87 percent of them were housed without having to stay even a single night in shelter. The families who did have to use the shelter stayed, on average, 15 days before moving to housing. We also provided support that includes, but is not limited to, a temporary rent supplement, payment of rental arrears, power arrears, or moving expenses to prevent homelessness, as well as the purchase of furniture, food boxes and grocery cards when indicated. Since its inception, the program has realized another important outcome; over the past 12 months, we saw only four children stay at Adsum House, and one of them slept only one night in shelter.
This focus on diverting families from shelter becomes increasingly important when we look at the long term impacts of a shelter stay. Research shows that any stay in a shelter negatively impacts children into adolescence and beyond. Halifax is not alone in facing this dilemma. Family homelessness is a huge burden for the country and for those persons experiencing it. Putting an End to Child and Family Homelessness in Canada states “Children who live in homelessness run the risk of doing poorly in school, developing negative health and mental health outcomes, having behavioral issues and struggling to exit poverty as adults. Research into the causes of youth and adult homelessness shows a connection to their living situation and experiences as a child. By focusing on prevention and ending children’s homelessness, we are able to stem the flow of people into homelessness in later years.