“For many, stable housing is a foundation which must be in place before other challenges in their lives can be addressed. A lack of stable housing can function as an insurmountable barrier – both physically and psychologically — for individuals and families needing to face an employment search, obtain adequate food and clothing, or deal with situations of conflict. Often it is only once some level of security has been attained in their immediate physical environment that the energy can be found to deal with other issues needing their attention.” (Source: Working center)
One of the most common struggles for patrons is housing. Some are living in a rooming house because they simply can’t afford a bachelor apartment. Some fight with their landlord as they fall behind in rent; while others live in facilities that may not even meet the building code and local property standards but stay because it’s all they can afford. For many affordable housing is difficult to obtain, especially because they have unstable incomes. As a result some of our patrons have to move around a lot, or spend a lot of time couch surfing coming to us for food because they have no form of income at all.
“Being poor is learning to live with condemned-quality housing because coming up with the first and last month’s rent, plus utility deposits, you’d need to move is a pipe dream.” (Source)
Like many other social service agencies, House of Friendship believes that everyone should have access to safe, secure and affordable housing. One way our program specifically tries to help is by posting weekly rental listings, distributing helpful pamphlets and problem solving with people who ask for help or advice dealing with an eviction notice that showed up on their door that morning or a rent increase their landlord wants to impose.
The House of Friendship offers several programs that provide shelter and support, which you can view here. But we’re just one of the many organizations working towards a better future for many people in need within this community.
“A single person earning minimum wage or receiving the Ontario Works shelter allowance cannot afford the average rent for a bachelor or one bedroom apartment.” (Source)
Why is housing important? Well that’s simple. It goes back to the quote that I shared from the Working Center’s website. Having a permanent and stable address may be the first step in a longer process to deal with some of the larger issues in their life. For example, it’s difficult for a person to obtain employment if they have no permanent address or regular contact information to provide with a potential new employer. Or how can a person focus on overcoming personal and traumatic issues in counseling when they don’t know where they’ll be sleeping at the end of the day?
Though there are supports and programs to help people who are homeless, or facing the threat of homelessness, such as Out of the Cold, the Lutherwood Rent Bank, the Region of Waterloo Community Housing team, and many others listed here, this is often not enough. Wait lists for people in need are growing faster than the units are being produced in communities across the province.
Housing costs consume the most significant portion of most household’s budgets. For many people on the edge between having an address and being homeless, food is the flexible part of their budget. All other needs will be put on hold as every penny is devoted to keeping a roof over their head.
Like many of the stories we hear each day, there is no quick and easy way to write a happy ending for them. As one part of a range of programs and organizations the Food Hamper Program and the House of Friendship help in many small and big ways.
What can you do to help? Whether you choose to educate yourself and others, advocate to the government to make this a focus in the budget and policy, or do something to help build an affordable unit, there are many ways you can help. Some food for thought can be found at the Wellesley Institute, especially a recent report from the summer here. For some local ideas please visit the Working Center’s website by clicking here or share your own here in the comments section.