Our lives have become centred around staying home. But what if you don’t have one?
Not only are you unable to meet your basic needs, now you may be more exposed to a life-threatening virus. This may sound like a nightmare, but for hundreds of people in Halifax – it’s their daily reality. The No Home campaign was created by United Way Halifax to raise awareness of this issue and raise money to help address it.
A Snapshot of Homelessness in Halifax:
It’s hard to know exactly how many people in the HRM are experiencing homelessness. It’s not always visible, there are always more people living out of their cars and staying with friends or family members than we realize. Here’s what we do know:
- With a 1% residential vacancy rate and increasing rents, there were already many people facing a housing crisis before COVID-19 hit.
- Approximately 20% of Nova Scotians spend half or more of their income on housing alone and could be at risk of homelessness.
- The average life expectancy of a person living on the streets in Canada is 47 years. This is a highly vulnerable population.
- It is estimated that 14,000 affordable housing units are needed in HRM.
- There is no personal protective equipment (PPE) for shelter staff, despite the fact that they work in very close proximity with their clients.
- Between 1,500 and 1,700 individuals use homeless shelters in Halifax every year.
- There are 175 shelter beds in Halifax. All beds are full, and some people have been turned away.
- Shelters are shared spaces, where it is difficult or impossible for people to avoid common areas. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, three pop-up shelters were opened in Halifax to help spread out the shelter population. This distributed 50 per cent of the shelter population to other shelters spaces.
- Shelters are seeing an increase in demand and some unfamiliar faces since the COVID-19 pandemic began, which does suggest that the issue has gotten worse.
- There are a number of situations that could lead to people needing to access a shelter right now: people who were released from jail without a support plan, people couch surfing who are no longer able to do so or people who are experiencing a loss of income.
- Evictions are on hold and rent payments are being deferred for now, which is helping many people in the short-term. However, not everyone will have the money to catch up on delayed payments. Unfortunately, we may not get a full picture of the impact COVID-19 is having on homelessness for a few months, at least.
What is United Way doing to help tackle/solve this issue?
We fund organizations that provide emergency and temporary housing for those who need it. We also raise awareness, fundraise all year round and connect the dots between people, ideas and resources. All of this helps to meet immediate needs and make long-term solutions possible.
Are you housing people?
We don’t operate housing ourselves, but we fund several community organizations that do. They’re operating shelters, providing temporary and supportive housing to individuals and families in need and working closely with the homeless population to meet their basic needs (including food, hygiene, laundry, etc.).
More About the No Home Campaign
Why is United Way running this campaign?
People can’t support the issues they don’t know about – and a lot of us don’t know how many individuals and families in HRM are struggling, or how many are close to being without a home. Campaigns like this help to build understanding that homelessness and the lack of affordable housing is a significant local issue.
Why are we doing it now?
Now that staying home is critical to our personal and public health, it’s never been more important that we talk about this.
What do we hope will happen or change as a result of this campaign?
We hope that it makes people stop and think and better still, that it motivates them to take action. That action could be making a donation to United Way, it could be sharing the campaign on social media, or it could be saying something more about what kind of community they want to live in.
How can people help if they can’t donate?
If this campaign/video/photo moves you, please share it. Speaking up is a really critical part of creating change. We all need to be vocal about the type of community we want to live in.