Independent Living Accounts: Leaving Homelessness in the Past

In 2008 SEDI’s Independent Living Account (ILA) project was recognized as a Vital Idea by the Toronto Community Foundation for its innovative approach in assisting residents of Toronto shelter system to save, build life skills and subsequently move into their own place.

The Toronto Community Foundation sponsored SEDI to research the effectiveness of the ILA model, as well as explore ways in which the ILA model could be expanded to support specific groups recognized as being vulnerable to homelessness.

The ILA model was designed to test the effectiveness of matched saving incentives in supporting individuals living in the shelter system to save for expenses related to moving out on their own. Participants enrolled in the ILA are provided with assistance to open a bank account and start saving. To incentivize this saving, SEDI offered a virtual $3 in match credits for each $1 saved, up to a maximum personal savings of $400. Participants are also required to work with a case manager on a savings plan and attend a financial literacy workshop which lasts approximately 12 hours. If a participant meets all of the program requirements they are eligible to use their credits, combined with their own savings, to pay for first and last month’s rent, utility hook up, moving expenses as well as supports to employment.

This report quantifies the benefit of the ILA model through a return on investment calculation. Feedback from current partners of the ILA was also gathered in an attempt to reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the model in order to evaluate the potential of bringing these benefits to scale. This study also explores the potential of expanding the ILA program to a wider audience of people vulnerable to homelessness, including: newcomers, urban Aboriginal peoples, youth, children/youth living in care, people with mental health and/or addiction issues and people who have come into conflict with the law. This report builds on the previous report respecting the impacts of the ILA, Building Foundations for Canadians in Transition, to suggest that there are a group of homeless individuals that can achieve a positive housing outcome in an effective and efficient manner and with a somewhat limited intervention.

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