The Saint John Human Development Council (HDC) is a planning council that holds federal funds in trust and distributes them where needed across the Maritimes. They work on reports such as minimum wage and the child poverty card.
Cathy Foote is the affordable housing specialist who helps identify social issues in the greater Saint John area through public research, networking, and community involvement. Foote is the head coordinator of the “In From the Cold” initiative, where 30 homeless people residing in Saint John will gain access to a home over the winter.
The HDC uses a “front door” support system to identify those who need help. Then, through community collaboration, open-access points, and joint assessment tools, the HDC draws together available housing and community resources. Doing so, the HDC allocates affordable, safe housing for those not as fortunate.
“Everyone’s story is different, particularly in this time during a pandemic and with rental rates rising,” said Foote. “We are seeing many people in precarious and insecure housing situations. Families, women, and other cohorts of individuals are experiencing increasing vulnerability and housing precarity. Homelessness could happen to anyone, particularly in these unstable times.”
Foote explained many challenges to providing housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. The most significant challenge is the lack of affordable and supportive housing.
As a result, there is a need for diverse housing options from market rental units to subsidized housing with supportive and transitional housing options provided by non-profit organizations and the government.
“The major challenge is that there aren’t enough housing options for everyone experiencing homelessness, leaving people in NB without the right to housing options – a fundamental human right,” Foote explained.
Options of stable housing should be available for those in need. Once the connectivity of HDC grows, the system will grow, too. Increasing the HDC will result in the betterment of the homeless and a better community within Saint John.
“In From the Cold” plans on homing 30 people through this December with the help of community landlords and other housing options. Progress towards a better community is happening, but there is still a variety of housing needed.
“Often, it feels like a challenge because we are facing a systemic issue. But housing people while at the same time addressing the systemic challenges feels like a step in the right direction,” Foote said.