Breaking down barriers to sustainable housing
At COSTI, we believe that everyone has the right to sustainable housing. Barriers such as unaffordable rents and housing, unemployment and other social issues contribute to a growing number of individuals living with homelessness or being at risk of experiencing homelessness.
With the impact of COVID-19 still being felt last year, we continued our partnership with City of Toronto and our work in two hostels. In addition to the refugee population, families and individuals experiencing chronic homelessness were supported. A total of 492 families (1,332 individuals) received temporary shelter and support services.
With poverty and homelessness on the rise, COSTI has worked to become more strategic in the expansion of our services. Our North York Housing Help Services continued to adapt its wide range of services to a virtual setting. In addition, staff received important training to navigate the City’s new MyAccesstoHousingTO portal and its RENTCafe component, and learn how to complete and update online applications for subsidized housing. Of note was the significant increase in the number of clients asking staff for help with these applications – and our overall numbers paint a stark picture of this growing need:
In 2021/22, a total of 2,504 clients received 11,634 support services in the areas of housing access, eviction prevention, housing stabilization and help with subsidized housing applications. 82 individuals experiencing homelessness, including hidden homelessness and those facing evictions, were successfully housed; 145 clients at risk of eviction received Emergency Funding through the City’s Rent Bank; 933 clients were assisted with online applications for subsidized housing; and 878 clients received support with conducting searches for market-rent rental units.
COSTI’s Streets to Homes program, a program that focuses on providing specialized follow-up support to immigrants and refugees, also made significant strides last year, including tackling the pervasive issues surrounding mental health challenges. Staff are faced with property owners who are reluctant or unwilling to work with clients suffering from mental health challenges. In some instances, these potential tenants may decide to stop taking their medication or cancel their direct rent payment arrangements. This is why ongoing, customized and client-centred follow-up is critical. This approach is achieved through community mapping – a process that helps staff link clients to resources in their neighbourhoods, including family doctors, walk-in clinics, food banks as well as access to social and recreational activities. This holistic approach improves a client’s overall health, reduces stress and increases a sense of personal safety.