CBU to Host Conference on Housing and Homelessness

Cape Breton University will host an important gathering on November 9, 2016, on housing and homelessness in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Called “Research to Action” the event is about bringing community groups and agencies together to determine how new, local data on homelessness and housing can be used in the municipality.

“This conference is about sharing the research we have been doing over the last year, and about moving forward with a plan of action,” said Peggy Vassallo, Housing First Coordinator with Cape Breton Community Housing Association. The day will also include a presentation on Halifax’s Housing and Homelessness Strategy by Jim Graham, who is also the executive director of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia.

In April of this year, a one-day study identified 137 homeless individuals in CBRM, while a one-month count, also in April, identified a startling 304. Most of the people enumerated were single adults. Meanwhile, a comprehensive study on rental housing stock done over the past year found that much of the rental housing in the municipality is targeted to seniors and families, and that only 10 per cent of one-bedroom apartments are $535 or less per month, the maximum shelter allowance amount.

Rooming houses also emerged as being much more affordable, and more likely to target single men. According to Fred Deveaux, Executive Director of Cape Breton Community Housing Association, “We now have a clearer picture of homelessness and housing issues in CBRM. There is a belief, because homelessness isn’t visible in our communities, it doesn’t exist. We now have a better idea of how many people are struggling with these issues and why.”

The research reflects the work of a broad-based group consisting of representatives from Public Health, CBU and community organizations. Erin Neville, a Manager of Public Health with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and a member of the team, talks about the strength of this approach, saying, “It has been incredible to have nurses, health promoters, an epidemiologist, staff from Cape Breton Regional Police, front-line housing workers, and the university’s community economic development program sitting around the table to collect evidence on a such a serious problem in the community. What we need now are solutions to the problems we have shed light on over the past year.”

For more information, Peggy Vassallo can be contacted at peggy.vassallo@cbcha.ca or 902-270-6217.