UCSN Housing Compendium: Homelessness and Housing
Introduction to Fall 1984 issue of the Connexions Digest,
(Volume 9, Number 3)

All across Canada, the number of homeless people in urban core areas has been increasing. The press have often featured the unemployed youth, women, and ex-psychiatric patients who are recent additions to the homeless. These groups have joined the men, women and families who have for some time been unable to find affordable and appropriate accommodation. All are being forced to rely on emergency shelters and hostels as the accommodation of last resort. For many, that which was meant to be “emergency” accommodation has become a permanent residence.

Faced with the increase in numbers and the lack of housing options, a growing number of those working on these issues have become aware that the “emergency” is going to continue in the foreseeable future. Workers in local parishes, church based organizations, community agencies, resident groups and even some in government have recognized that the disappearance of secure and affordable housing is a major contributor to the homelessness many are experiencing. It has also become clear that high unemployment and our current social policies are combining with the lack of housing to increase the number who are “structurally” homeless. In response to this situation, many community workers are initiating housing projects and challenging governments to do the same.


The Urban Core Support Network (UCSN) is a church based, ecumenical association of individuals who are responding to the problems faced by people living at the margins of our urban society. Over the past 10 years, Urban Core Support Network workshops and newsletters have included an increased focus on housing issues. During that time, increasing numbers of network participants have become involved in putting housing in place. To enhance our networking of these people the network has asked CONNEXIONS to prepare this special edition on housing.


There are two kinds of material abstracted or presented here. One group of abstracts points to efforts to analyze the problems and propose responses. Through commissioned studies, task group analyses or conferences and workshops, people across the country have been attempting to clarify the issues, identify the problems and propose solutions to the disappearance of housing for people in the urban core. The second group of abstracts includes descriptions of projects that are now in place or at the proposal stage. It is reflection on these projects that will provide the basis for more effective action in the future.


The papers and presentations abstracted here all document the seriousness of the situation and the inadequacy of current responses.


For the most part, previous efforts to put housing in place for homeless single people by churches and non-profit groups have been small in scale and oriented to people facing particular problems in addition to homelessness, such as alcohol addiction. The projects that are included here represent some of the more recent and larger scale projects oriented to low income singles, or some of the more innovative efforts. The list, however, is far from complete as a number of known projects did not submit material for this compendium.


In order for the present projects to continue and expand and for new proposals to become reality, adequate funding must be found. Most groups have sought Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) backed mortgages in order to purchase and renovate or to newly construct housing. Even with this assistance, the high cost of land and low social assistance rates that plague the private sector also make it difficult if not impossible for non-profit organizations to develop housing that is affordable without other subsidies. In addition, the kind of management necessary for the operation of such housing is beyond traditional rent collection and requires additional, ongoing funding.

The following trends make the future of such projects even more uncertain:
- Even before the election was called, it appeared that CHMC was getting out of social housing, or drastically changing its approach to favour private sector involvement
- Provincial governments, with few exceptions, have been reducing or eliminating their commitment to social housing
- Social assistance rates, which people would use to pay for their housing, have been substantially cut back in some provinces and increased only minimally in others
- It continues to be easier to get funding for housing people with particular problems, such as ex-mental patients. Although, this funding is still far from adequate. It is much harder to find the funding necessary to manage housing for those whose problems are not recognized as being deserving of aid – those who are homeless and unemployed.

While the future funding possibilities for such housing is still unclear, the need for the housing is being demonstrated all across the country. Many communities in addition to those indicated here are also struggling with the same issues. For example, UCSN participants in cities such as St. John’s, Fredericton, Oshawa, Hamilton, and Saskatoon are also involved in putting such housing in place.

UCSN hopes to continue to foster the networking of people and information that will enable more effective response to the need for housing. We hope this compendium is a first step in that direction.

Larry E. Peterson
UCSN Staff