Decent, safe and affordable housing is not just a basic human necessity, it is also a human right. It is guaranteed under Article 25 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
Housing is a fundamental building block to enable people to build healthy and productive lives and to create stable communities. Unfortunately in Canada, the cancellation of social housing by the federal government in 1993 has severely limited the availability of affordable housing. Canada remains the only country in the industrialized world without a national housing strategy.
According to the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, “Between 1985 and 1989, the federal government helped fund 5356 units of social housing per year. If Ottawa had continued to fund social housing at this rate, between 1994 and 2013, some 107,120 homes could have been built.”
Solving homeless requires access to safe, secure and affordable housing. Ideally, housing for people exiting homelessness also requires supports and other accommodations to help them adjust to non-institutionalized living. Housing First as a philosophy and as a practice/program has proven that it is a “best practice” in North America. Along with dedicated Ten Year Plans to End Homelessness, communities that have adopted Housing First have shown significant decreased in their homeless populations.
In the mid-90s, U.S. housing researcher and activist, Cushing Dolbeare stated:
“The one thing all homeless people have in common is a lack of housing. Whatever other problems they face, adequate, stable, affordable housing is a prerequisite to solving them. Homelessness may not be only a housing problem, but it is always a housing problem; housing is necessary, although sometimes not sufficient, to solve the problem of homelessness.”