Welcome to Help the Homeless

Hello everyone and welcome to our blog about helping the issue of homeless in the Tri-Cities area of Metro Vancouver. We are a  group of  students from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia who are trying to make a difference with a social innovation to help the homeless. Below is a summary of our homeless sponsorship idea, and to find out more you can click on the Posts page or use the categories on the column to your right.

From the Tri-Cities homeless population, we will target homeless people who have a high chance of becoming independent within 6-12 months if they have a home. Outreach workers and other homeless advocates who know the homeless best can identify the appropriate clients.

Funding the housing:

The housing can be funded through a combination of two methods: by donation and by investment giving circles. For the donation option, we would invite local organizations, churches, or a philanthropic giving circle (a small group of people who want to donate their money to a cause) to donate the rent for the sponsored client. With this option, we would need to find a landlord who is willing to rent their property to a homeless person.

The other option is an investment giving circle which would buy the housing and thus overcome one of the biggest barriers in getting housing for homeless people (eg. The client often has no previous address, current employment, or credit rating, making it difficult to find landlords willing to rent to them). The investment giving circle would consist of five investors who pool their funds in order to buy a piece of property in the Tri-Cities that will house homeless people. The selected clients will be provided with housing, to which they contribute $375 per month (the social assistance housing allowance). To lower costs, up to three clients will live together in separate rooms in one housing unit. We will approach banks, the city, and other groups in order to provide benefits for the investment giving circle. These can include a significant reduction in the usual expenses that a property investor incurs, such as lower property taxes, a low interest rate on the mortgage, no real estate agent commissions, and other subsidized items from the community. By providing reduced costs in property investment, we are giving investors the opportunity to invest in an appreciating property while also helping their community by helping to house a homeless person, thus capitalizing on the increased trend of socially conscious investments.

Community Involvement:

A fundamental part of this idea is community involvement in order to get the homeless person re-integrated into society and help society get to know homeless people as well. We will involve community volunteers to provide simple support services to the client, such as companionship, mentorship, and life skills, such as cooking and using the library. We recognize that when a person gets out of homelessness they are starting an entirely new life, and leaving behind their old habits and circle of friends. Volunteers, who can provide companionship and mentorship in the form of simple acts such as going out for coffee, can help the client immensely in getting re-integrated into society and combating loneliness.  We will approach the large groups of volunteers from the Cold Wet Weather Mat (CWWM) Program as well as from the community at large.

Community organizations such as the Share Food Bank, local businesses and the churches that have shown interest in helping the homeless through their participation in the CWWM will be asked to donate other life essentials for the client such as food, clothing and furniture. We also have an idea of starting a website or other community forum where the modest needs of the sponsored client can be advertised and community members can respond by donating the needed items.

Involving many stakeholders in this program helps dispel the stigmas associated with homelessness and reach our ultimate goal of re-integrating homeless clients into society. We are confident that if we can provide the client with a place to live, support services, and job placement services, they can be self-sustained and the housing unit can house the next homeless client.

This flow chart shows the cycle of our program, from homeless client selection all the way up to the client being self sustainable and able to live on their own.

Flowchart

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8 responses

13 07 2009
christinehwang

I like your comprehensive and thoughtful approaches to tackling chronic homelessness issues. What I particularly like about this solution is that your group is trying to involve various sectors in our society in addressing the social needs. I also agree that alleviating the situations of homelessness would not certainly happen one day with one sector alone no matter how devoted this single sector may be. With regards to the landlord, I remember reading in the article that some landlord is willing to donate housing or lands in an effort to solve the homelessness problems.

Church people or non-profit organizations must have been self-motivated to offer help by donating their items due to religious or philanthropic causes.
However, the business may not earn any benefit in participating in this project. What kind of benefits do you think are necessary for commercial sectors to be more motivated to join in your philanthropic cause?

14 07 2009
Hannah Kim

Hi Christine, thanks for your insight! 🙂

As you pointed out, it’s absolutely important to provide incentives/benefits to the stakeholders who participate in our program to alleviate homelessness in the Tri-Cities. Investors who take part as giving circle members would get incentives such as lower mortgage rate provided by local banks; discounts on property-related taxes and utilities payments from municipal governments; and added value through local businesses donating materials and services to repair/refurbish the supported housing units.

Now, the question is: what do those local businesses get out of this? At this time, positive PR and fulfilling their CSR objectives would be our strongest points. However, we may need to investigate further into what other incentives we can provide.

Thanks again,
Hannah

13 07 2009
shiniesbaby

Very informative concept and thoughtful ideas. I was concerning about getting the homeless seniors involved with the program. Normally homeless people are unlikely come out for help, and one of the ways I was thinking was to partner with tax services. I work for H&R Block seasonally. During the tax seasons, individuals with no income during the year can get $75 from the government and H&R Block are doing tax returns for free for people with no income with social assistant. There are many homeless people and senior citizens came to us for instant cash back tax service each day, and I think this is a good opportunity to promote your program. What do you guys think?

14 07 2009
Hannah Kim

That’s actually a great idea Diana! Would you be able to explain a little further how this service for homeless clients works? We can also discuss via email. 🙂

23 07 2009
Marie

I think your idea of the philanthropic giving circle is a good chance for investors to become socially responsible! Yah, I agree that convincing landlords to rent to a homeless person with no credit rankings or background history. But I think what you brought up about going to property investors is great way to house homeless people and provide socially conscience investments. I work at Larco Investments Ltd, which is a real estate firm who invests in a multitude of properties, including many residential properties in Vancouver. I think that if the incentives of lower property taxes and investing in an appreciating property will lure many firms to invest in socially conscience investments.

23 07 2009
arita

Hi Marie, thanks a lot for your comment. It is very encouraging for us to know that.

27 07 2009
Natalie

I strongly agree the idea of getting people involved. Raising people’s awareness of this social problem is very important, and the first step to take to solve the problem. There’s only so much that you and I, as individuals can do for these large amount of homelessness people. We should empower eveveryone to help a little bit with this, so that it will get better in the long-run.

27 07 2009
Hannah Kim

Thanks Natalie for your support! I truly believe that giving circles are a powerful way of helping to resolve many social problems like homelessness. I hope you enjoy the final presentation today. 🙂

Cheers,
Hannah

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