BANFF— A federal grant is helping the YWCA Banff work towards ensuring no Bow Valley resident is left out in the cold without a home.
The Alberta Rural Development Network announced that the Banff YWCA will be receiving $359,450 through the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy in support of Project HOME, a program designed to provide support for Bow Valley residents experiencing precarious housing or homelessness.
The funding creates the opportunity for great programming that can be designed in terms of the unique needs of the Bow Valley community, YWCA Banff director of operations Rae-Ann Roberts said. She added that the first step will be hiring a permanent housing navigator at the YWCA.
“We’re hoping to be able to provide a safe option for Bow Valley residence,” Roberts said. “Our goal is to use this funding and to use this time to cement a person permanently in this position in this valley. We know that having someone dedicated to this work will make all the difference in terms of the success of client outcomes.”
Project HOME offers housing supports and case management for Bow Valley residents experiencing vulnerable housing. The project is made possible through collaboration through interagency partnerships and will focus on intervention, prevention and long term housing supports.
The grant will also aid in giving traction to projects that are already underway in the Bow Valley through the Homeless to Housing Coalition, Roberts added. The coalition is made up of several community partners including the YWCA, she said, united in the goal of addressing homelessness in the Bow Valley.
“This group for over ten years has been working to address the unique landscape of homeless in the Bow Valley and trying to come up with solutions to understand what’s happening and figure out what we need to do here,” Roberts said. “Their (Homeless to Housing Coalition) hard work made this possible.”
This collaborative partnership was able to identify the need for a dedicated housing navigator to help individuals and families plan around their housing circumstance— including next step planning and help in traversing the housing system.
As part of Project HOME, the YWCA has hired dedicated housing navigator Sachiho Miller and has paid to dedicated units at the site for emergency accommodation that can support individuals and families.
“These are the only units in the Bow Valley that are dedicated to families if they find themselves in a situation… where something comes about that is unplanned,” Roberts said. “Someone is vulnerable if their housing is unstable – This is so important to our community.”
The third piece of funding will be put towards an awareness campaign that will aid in educating people about the experience of homelessness and precarious housing in the community.
The YWCA will capture as much data as possible during the four-and-a-half-year program to track outcomes and if people can secure housing.
“We know that the Bow Valley is changing,” Roberts said. “Collaboration is key – As we grow and develop as a community we need to make sure that our programs are doing that too.”
The Alberta Rural Development Network executive director De Ann Benard said the organization has worked with the YWCA Banff in the past. She added that the YWCA has a great track record on delivering on programs and projects to the community.
“The reality is homelessness looks much different in rural communities,” Benard said. “You do have people sleeping rough but they’re not sleeping rough out on a park bench they’re sleeping out in the woods that are nearby or living in a tent, in their cars or couch surfing.”
The Bow Valley was one of 11 Alberta communities selected for funding by the Alberta Rural Development Network. A total of $3.7 million in funding has been selected for 12 projects.
“There’s a huge need in the Bow Valley and Banff areas, they have a lot of pressure on their housing housing is very expensive,” Benard said, adding that many residents experience precarious housing due to the vacancy rate in the community.
The ideal goal of the funding is to see a reduction in homelessness and the time individuals experience homelessness shortened.
“If you can deal with the issue as soon as possible it really minimizes the impact,” Benard said. “We’re really hoping that this program, this project and the person who’s going to be the support worker will be able to deal with people and help them get into successful programs or get successfully housed very quickly to really minimize the negative impact of that kind of stress on a person who experiences that’s life.”