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CAEH Statement on Auditor General’s Report on Ending Chronic Homelessness

November 15, 2022 - 10:55 am / News

The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) welcomes the Office of the Auditor General’s report into chronic homelessness released today.

The OAG’s audit found that:

  • Infrastructure Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada did not know whether their efforts to prevent and reduce chronic homelessness were leading to improved outcomes.
  • Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation did not know who was benefiting from its initiatives.
  • There was minimal federal accountability for reaching the National Housing Strategy target to reduce chronic homelessness by 50% by the 2027–28 fiscal year.

The audit provided the following key recommendations:

  • Infrastructure Canada should; collect and analyze data in a timely manner, finalize the implementation of its online reporting platform, and use the information and data that it collects.
  • The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation should assess the impact of its programs on vulnerable groups at all stages of its National Housing Strategy initiatives.
  • The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Infrastructure Canada should align, coordinate, and integrate their efforts and engage with central agencies to clarify accountability.

The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness’ Statement

  • Modern mass homelessness in Canada was created when the federal government withdrew from affordable housing investment in the 1980s and 1990s. The National Housing Strategy marked the return of the federal government to leadership on housing and is essential if Canada is to end homelessness.
  • In 2017, the National Housing Strategy set the goal of reducing chronic homelessness by 50%, and in the Speech from the Throne in 2020, the government committed to eliminating chronic homelessness. Ending chronic homelessness is an achievable goal.
  • Currently, there is a misalignment between the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (responsible for the National Housing Strategy) and Infrastructure Canada (who lead Reaching Home, the federal government’s homelessness program) in accountability for achieving the National Housing Strategy target to reduce chronic homelessness by 50%.
  • CMHC is responsible for implementing the National Housing Strategy. They must take accountability for their critical role in ending homelessness. We are heartened CMHC agrees.
    • Currently, most of the housing built under the National Housing Strategy is not affordable to people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
    • Canada has lost over 552,000 low-cost rental units since 2011, yet the federal National Housing Strategy only promises to produce 160,000.
  • The federal government must develop a clear strategy with timelines and targets for ending chronic homelessness. This strategy should include a clear and measurable definition of ending chronic homelessness. The CAEH strongly recommends functional zero as that definition.
  • The CAEH has also recommended the use of By-Name Lists to measure progress and support community efforts to end homelessness. Supported by Infrastructure Canada’s Reaching Home, 32 communities have implemented quality By-Name Lists. This is a foundational step for ending chronic and all homelessness.
  • Despite what is mentioned in the report, most Reaching Home communities are on track to implement Coordinated Access systems by March 2023.
    • CAEH is working with 60 out of the 64 Reaching Home communities to support the implementation of Coordinated Access.
    • 26 of those communities have confirmed Coordinated Access in place and we expect most of the 40 will be confirmed by March 2023.
  • Infrastructure Canada’s Reaching Home program’s pivot and expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic provided life-saving support directly to communities at a time when people experiencing homelessness were largely ignored by public health agencies across the country.
  • Supported by Reaching Home, communities across the country are having success at reducing chronic homelessness and measuring these reductions. Since 2019, eight communities have achieved measurable and verified reductions in chronic homelessness. Some highlights include:
    • Guelph-Wellington County has sustained between a 10% and 30% decrease in chronic homelessness since 2019.
    • Ottawa has reduced rates by 15%
    • Sault St. Marie has reduced rates by 31%
    • Dufferin County is on track to reach functional-zero chronic homelessness very soon, having already reduced it by as much as 74% since 2019.

This Report comes at a time when Canada is facing a significant wave of new homelessness, driven by the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis driving up prices everywhere. Read our recommendations to the federal and provincial governments to tackle this new wave of homelessness here.

We call on politicians and those responding to this report to redouble their support for ending homelessness in this time of crisis, implementing the OAG’s recommendations for Reaching Home and the National Housing Strategy while making further improvements, and resist the urge to use this report as a sign that efforts to end homelessness are not working in Canada. To do so would cause even further harm to our unhoused neighbours.