Taking a holistic approach
Federal government commits $700,000 in matching funds for homeless

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jun 16/00) - It's about people, not programs.

The Salvation Army is heading up a five-year community plan on homelessness involving four of Yellowknife's leading community support agencies.

The new strategy coincides with the recent June 2 funding announcement by the federal Minister of Labour and Homelessness, Claudette Bradshaw. The Northwest Territories will receive $718,000 in matching funds as part of the three-year Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative plan for homelessness.

The plan still has to go before the Treasury Board in Ottawa for approval.

Scott Naugler, Bradshaw's communications officer, said the matching funds reflect the holistic scope involved in fighting homelessness.

"Homelessness is everyone's responsibility and because of this everyone needs to play a part," he said.

"Only in partnership can we build a country where everybody can sleep on a bed."

The Salvation Army welcomes the federal initiative and sees it as a boost to its own five-year strategy.

The plan, according to its mission statement, seeks to "provide a seamless continuum for housing and support services for marginalized individuals and families."

"We don't want solutions that fizzle out," said Karen Hoeft, program co-ordinator with the Salvation Army.

"We can lead Canada in the fight against homelessness," she said. "Instead of having organizations playing against each other, we take a more holistic approach."

According to the strategy document, housing services in Yellowknife have been disjointed and "resulted in gaps in service and some duplication."

"This new strategy focuses on the point of need," said Hoeft.

"There are no repeat services if organizations focus on people."

Yellowknife has three homeless shelters which are full on any given evening.

"You won't find many cities in the South with the population of Yellowknife having the same problems," said Hoeft.

"We are an urban centre like Toronto, Vancouver is to its surrounding area," she added.

The Salvation Army is waiting on the GNWT for a reply to begin implementation of the strategy.

It's been two months.

"When we don't see the homeless as part of our community then we lose," Hoeft said.

The Salvation Army, YWCA, the Yellowknife Women's Centre and the Side Door are all part of the five-year strategy.