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Bright Spot: Dufferin County has reduced its chronic homeless population by 26%

February 26, 2020 - 3:00 am / News

Not long ago, Dufferin County achieved a Quality By-Name List and Coordinated Access system. Now the Built for Zero Canada community has reduced its chronic homeless numbers and sustained that reduction for three months— and aims to end chronic homelessness by year-end. This blog is a part of our Bright Spot series highlighting outstanding work in ending homelessness happening across Canada.


Over the last few months, Dufferin County has sustained a “below-baseline” reduction of its chronic homeless population thanks to a commitment to quality data and collaboration. It has reduced its chronic homeless numbers by 26% since first achieving its Quality By-Name List in July 2019.

Dufferin is “non-negotiable” about its commitment to ending homelessness in its community, according to Anna McGregor, Director of Community Services. That commitment has inspired the Ontario community to have quality data in its By-Name List (BNL), work with agencies and pull together service partners, and make sure the needs of its chronic homeless population are being met.

“This is simply the right thing to do,” says Anna. “No one should have no place to call home. It costs far more to keep people in the homelessness system than to get them out of it.”

Dufferin reduced its chronic homeless population in September 2019 by over 10% and has sustained that reduction to January 2020 (the latest available data). It has reduced its chronic homeless numbers by 26% since August 2019. The Built for Zero Canada (BFZ-C) community had to make necessary system changes in order to achieve this milestone.

The team brought together its service partners and created a weekly Coordinated Access Table (CAT), according to Anna. They ensured the table was adequately staffed as the Municipal Service Manager and as the Reaching Home Community Entity. They also set the agenda format to ensure that they used the BNL to identify and then discuss/case conference for those people.

“By creating a stronger link and avenue for shared communication, it has been far easier to identify gaps and to work on solutions,” she says. “Each agency at the table brings something.

“Often, agencies don’t realize they are serving the same people and that they could actually enhance/add to the work of others. No one agency does this alone.”

Data is also a critical element to the work they do. Anna says when you can tangibly show the inflow, outflow and active people on the BNL, it becomes more real to those working with the clients.

“You get to see that the work is making a difference,” she says. “The constant follow-up each week at the CAT table ensure that people don’t slip through ‘system’ cracks. Keeping the BNL up to date has been invaluable for that.

“It’s not a single agency doing a single piece of the jigsaw and then walking away—read the data, then follow where it leads.”

Prior to its BNL, Dufferin didn’t really track its homeless population as accurately. They had two point-in-time counts, but between those counts they didn’t have a solid idea of how many people were experiencing homelessness, where they were, or what their needs were.

“The BNL has really allowed us to be able to hone in on that and to be able to provide that data on any given day, at any given time,” says Andrea Smith, Community Services Worker. “Ask me any time of day, and I know exactly how many people are on the list and how many are chronic.

“When we see a spike, we can see what changed in our system and we can address those things.”

Dufferin is one of the smallest Service Manager areas in Ontario and one of the smallest Reaching Communities in Canada. Small means that they don’t get the same funding opportunities that larger areas get, Anna says.

“Small means that we actively look for research and develop from others, better ways of working to better serve our population,” she adds.

That means working with BFZ-C, and accessing its resources and working with an Improvement Advisor, has been a huge support—especially when the team faces challenges on its path. “The ongoing support calls are a great tool for us to test ideas and can provide a debrief mechanism when, as sometimes happens, not everyone in community is on the red bus,” Anna adds.

“We definitely feel we are part of a big, strong movement to effect real change.”

Dufferin has also received Coordinated Access and Housing First training from CAEH Training & Technical Assistance, which helped reinforce messaging the community was already providing. “There is high staff turnover in this field, and we recognized we needed to re-group and refocus attention for our Community Advisory Board and our Coordinated Access Table.”

With 14 people left on their BNL, Dufferin is aiming to reach functional zero homelessness by the end of the year, according to Anna. “We will end chronic homelessness in Dufferin—it’s non-negotiable.”

If you’re interested in this, you might also be interested in CAEH TTA Training & Technical Assistance webinars

Mark your calendars! We have plenty of upcoming webinars to help you end homelessness in your community. The CAEH Training & Technical Assistance webinars help provide community leaders and program staff an opportunity to debrief, consult, have round-table sharing, discuss case scenarios, have topic presentations and learn from experts and their peers on best practices. Check out our Monthly Webinars page to learn more and register today.