Home Base Housing announces changes in approach to housing services

The sign out front of Princess Street United Church announcing Home Base Housing’s new Youth Services Hub, one part of the organizations three part plan to move from an emergency shelter model to emergency housing model. Photo by Tommy Vallier.

Home Base Housing has announced some changes that are currently taking place, as well as a shift in how their services will be carried out in the future.

The local not-for-profit supportive housing organization announced on Thursday, Jul. 6, 2020 that it will be “moving towards a new emergency housing model as an alternative to emergency shelters.”

“It is time for us to truly look at providing housing over shelters for the most vulnerable in our society,” said Ed Smith, President of the Board of Directors for Home Base Housing in a press release. The statement noted that, since April 1, 2020, Home Base Housing has moved 73 adults and 18 youth out of homelessness and into situations where they are now paying rent for their own residences.

The organization cited recent experiences as having provided proof that the emergency housing model is more effective than the emergency shelter model. After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the area, Home Base Housing’s In From the Cold shelter moved from its 540 Montreal Street location to the former Fairfield Manor East location. There, residents had their own rooms and self-contained washrooms, and the many difficulties the organization has experienced in association with people sharing spaces “diminished drastically” Home Base Housing said. The organization also said that this system of operation has “contributed significantly” to the housing of clients.

“Our focus at Home Base is not to perpetuate homelessness, but actively work with individuals and families to have them gain housing independence. We are in the business of ending homelessness. Emergency shelters should not be long-term housing. The stabilizing factor in operating at the Fairfield East site has contributed significantly to the ability of individuals to have a home and end their homelessness,” said Colleen McAlister, Program Manager for Shelters for Home Base Housing.

However, the In From the Cold Shelter and those residing at the former Fairfield Manor East site have recently had to move back to their original Montreal Street location. According to Home Base Housing, the owner of the former Fairfield Manor East requested the building back for redevelopment. At the Montreal Street location, the previous capacity had been 34 beds in congregate living and sleeping situations, something the organization noted is not ideal. After consulting with KFL&A Public Health, the In From the Cold shelter has now been reduced to only 13 beds. Home Base Housing said they hope the gymnasium at the recently-opened Integrated Care Hub at Artillery Park will be able to accommodate the overflow created by the loss of the 21 emergency shelter beds.

Home Base Housing said that the experience of moving In From the Cold to the former Fairfield Manor East location has provided evidence that providing single rooms with washrooms is a favourable housing model. The organization underlined that, over the past 10 months, they have been actively working on three projects that will reflect their move from an emergency shelter model to an emergency housing model. The emergency housing model will feature small, individual dorm-like bachelor apartments with private washrooms and kitchenettes, a model Home Base Housing feels can act as a template across the province.

“Kingston can be a model that can be replicated throughout Ontario and beyond. This is an opportunity for us to build upon a solid foundation of existing structures, services, and expertise in our hopes of ending homelessness,” said Tom Greening, Executive Director of Home Base Housing, in the release. “There is a collective level of expertise and support in Kingston that can make these changes happen.

Home Base Housing stated that its priority should be to intervene in youth homelessness, ensuring individuals receive the supports to gain independence and sustainable living conditions, thus ending the cycle of homelessness into adulthood, and noted that the United Way of KFLA has been an important partner in the work locally to end youth homelessness. The organization pointed to a recent report received by Kingston City Council regarding the current situation with the encampment at Belle Park, which stated “Approximately half of all respondents stated that their first instance of homelessness was between the ages of 12 and 18.”

In moving towards this new model Home Base Housing (which includes youth, families, and single adults), the organizations approach will include:

  1. Moving forward with the creation of the Kingston Youth Services Hub at Princess and Albert Streets as “the first step in providing new supportive emergency housing for homeless youth in a campus of wrap-around supportive services and opportunities.” This development is currently underway.
  2. Creating a new place where homeless families can have space and support to get back on their feet. Home Base Housing is currently working with the City of Kingston and looking at two possible locations for this space, the organization said.
  3. Building a new facility on the property already purchased by Home Base Housing in central Kingston, which will “provide new supportive transitional and emergency housing for single adults.”

“No system will be perfect. As Kingstonians, moving forward with changes in how we treat the most vulnerable in our society, is a statement of our character, how we will be judged, and our leadership in this field,” Smith said in the press release. “Home Base Housing looks forward to collaborative approaches for this new emergency housing model.”

Home Base Housing consists of Lily’s Place Emergency Shelter for Families and the In From the Cold Shelter, as well as the Housing First, Homeless Prevention, Supportive Housing, and Street Outreach teams. The Home Base teams work in partnership with other organizations to help homeless individuals and families find new homes.

Editorial note: An earlier version of this article indicated that the new property owned by Home Base Housing is the property on Wright Crescent currently being developed for mixed housing. That property is, in fact, owned by the City of Kingston and not Home Base Housing. When asked about this, Home Base Housing said they are not disclosing the new property they own at this time. The organization also indicated they are working with the City to consider the City-owned property at 1316 Princess for a new Lily’s Place location for families.

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