Where can we get funding for transitional type housing projects?

Homeless Hub
January 20, 2017
Categories: Ask the Hub

In our latest website survey, we received the following question from Patricia F.: “Where can we get funding for transitional type housing projects?” This is a bit tough to answer without further information on the initiative but I’ll do my best!

Funding is the lifeline of service agencies but searching and applying for grants is not as simple as just asking, and gone are the days of government support as the main, if not the sole contributor. Besides providing essential services for their communities, one of the most important activities for non-profits is securing funding to fuel their operations. However, for the past three decades, the federal government has reduced funding for services providing support for people experiencing homelessness. Last year, Nick Falvo from the Calgary Homeless Foundation wrote an entry titled “Ten Things to Know About the Challenges of Ending Homelessness in Canada”, and 3 out of the 10 challenges he discussed had to do with the declining federal funds made available to non-profit organizations. Whether you’re looking for funding for transitional housing, community programming, research, advocacy or any other initiative, the lack of government funding is a serious barrier that makes it harder, if not impossible for communities to address the root causes of homelessness in a meaningful way. This point is reflected in the Government of Canada’s What We Heard report that summarized Canadians’ concerns around housing heard during the National Housing Strategy consultations held in the summer of 2016:

“Social housing providers and developers highlighted the need for innovative financing ideas, lower land costs and long-term, stable funding to help them plan and build more affordable homes for Canadians in need.”

Although the federal government has an important role to play in leading efforts in preventing and ending homelessness, provincial, territorial, municipal governments, civil institutions as well as the private sector and the general population can be important stakeholders in providing the necessary funding. Yet, when it comes to the housing question, the private sector alone doesn’t cut it and government intervention is critical if Canada is to end homelessness any time soon.  In our systems approach to homelessness section, we advocate for government participation as leaders to pull in together various sectors through collective and coordinated responses. This means the sharing of responsibilities, developing structural supports through policy, agreeing on definitions, pooling funding, and engaging multiple sectors and levels of governments.

Before jumping into Patricia’s question, I’ll quickly discuss what is meant by transitional housing. As Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) defines it:

Transitional housing is conceptualized as an intermediate step between emergency crisis shelter and permanent housing. It is more long-term, service-intensive and private than emergency shelters, yet remains time-limited to stays of three months to three years. It is meant to provide a safe, supportive environment where residents can overcome trauma, begin to address the issues that led to homelessness or kept them homeless, and begin to rebuild their support network.”

In light of the successes of Housing First models, there have been concerns around the time-limited nature of transitional housing including “rewarding” those who have proven to be “housing ready” by requiring them to move on, and for being highly dependent on the availability of affordable housing as a next step. Nevertheless, transitional housing is an important housing option where there isn’t an adequate supply of affordable housing and when dealing with youth. Unlike adults, youth lack many of the social supports deemed necessary for a successful transition into adulthood. Appropriate models of housing for youth should take into account their age, experience, level of independence and need. Therefore, models like that of Housing First need to be adapted to the needs of young people to be effective. The Housing First for Youth framework outlines the different options for models of accommodation that are suitable for youth and includes transitional housing that comes with a pathway to independent living.​

So what is available in terms of funding? I’ve researched a few transitional housing programs to shed light on a few funding models that rely on government grants and private donations at varying degrees.  

Funding Models for Transitional Housing

With the funding support of the Home Depot Canada Foundation’s Orange Door Project, we recently released the Youth Transitional Housing Toolkit.  One of the chapters discusses the funding question for both capital a

Media Folder: 
nd operating dollars using Covenant House’s $1.7 million annual expenses as an example. This total dollar amount covers staffing costs, program expenses, food, mentoring program, and the physical housing structure. In their 2015 annual report, Covenant House highlights that 82% of their total revenue (which includes expenses beyond their transitional housing program) comes from individual donors and 13% from government funding. The vast majority (79%) comes from individuals, 8% from corporations/foundations, 9% from events and 4% from Catholic charities. Covenant House has a number of engaging ways to reach out to donors who provide the bread and butter of their agency.

Since we are on the topic of funding, The Home Depot Canada Foundation has committed $10 million to help homeless youth. In 2015, they supported 300 organizations to improve their spaces and programming initiatives. The Orange Door Project has three priorities areas that could fit with transitional housing initiatives:

  1. Increasing and improving the inventory of new and existing housing options for homeless youth.
  2. Helping homeless youth with life skills development through programs that focus on critical support services.
  3. Supporting research, community dialogue and evaluation that identifies best practices and support solutions that will help put an end to youth homelessness.

A second organization providing three distinct transitional housing programs is YWCA Halifax. Because YWCA Halifax offers a number of community-based services besides their transitional housing program, it is not clear from their 2014 annual report how much of their revenues are allocated towards their transitional housing. However, the majority of their revenue comes from both government funding and programming fees. While most of their programs are free of charge, YWCA Halifax operates two child care centres which are an important form of revenue for the organization.

Other transitional housing programs such as Siem Lelum managed by Victoria Native Friendship Centre and established with the support of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness and the City of Victoria, rent their units at below-market prices to their residents. The project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy, the Capital Regional District’s Housing Trust Fund, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the City of Victoria. The building itself was a Traveller’s Inns that the City of Victoria purchased and renovated into 26 apartments. In addition, last year, YMCA Sprott House opened its doors, with room for up to 25 youth, it is Canada’s first transitional housing program for LBGTQ2SA youth. YMCA Sprott House is supported by funding from the City of Toronto, the Sprott Foundation, individual donors such as Ben Pobjoy, and perhaps other sources.

These are just a few examples of many transitional housing funding models that employ various strategies to diversify their revenue streams. The reality is that organizations are required to engage a number of contributors including, different levels of government, foundations, corporations, and individuals (including the tenants themselves in some cases). In addition, operating a social enterprise is another method used by organizations to offset their costs and/or run sustainable programs such as Eva’s Phoenix Print Shop. But if you’re looking to build housing or need a major cash injection, running a successful capital campaign is a must!

Below, I’ve compiled a list of funders (not including local government, businesses and community foundations) that provide large grants to organizations serving the homeless. However, I’m hoping to share this list on our Community Workspace so please feel free to tweet or Facebook me and/or share names of additional funders that you know of in the comments section below.

Canada-Wide Funders:

Resources:

Image Credit: YMCA Sprott House

This post is part of our Friday "Ask the Hub" blog series. Have a homeless-related question you want answered? E-mail us at thehub@edu.yorku.ca and we will provide a research-based answer.

Ambar Aleman is a graduate student working at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. Previous to her role at COH, Ambar worked on a number of national advocacy campaigns and policy initiatives on violence against women, women's homlessness and youth leadership. She has also worked front-line at a women's homeless shelter serving families.

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The analysis and interpretations contained in the blog posts are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.