YXE Connects 2015 A Research Report

For a PDF copy of the report, please email Joanne Hritzuk at cuisr.oncampus@usask.ca

Homelessness in Canada is an increasing concern. On any given night 35,000 Canadians are homeless; 235, 000 people in Canada can experience homelessness in a year. As a result of research and community initiatives, efforts have moved from crisis intervention to prevention, housing placement, and housing-first strategies supported by the federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). Recent efforts in Saskatoon include the Journey Home Housing First at Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service; a Housing Locator at the Lighthouse, specifically working with landlords to create interest in reducing homelessness and supporting all the housing placement programs; a Rapid Re-Housing Team out of the Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre and the Friendship Inn; centralized intake for all housing placement programs out of the Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre and the Friendship Inn; The Lighthouse new housing placement case managers; and Housing First for Families at White Buffalo Youth Lodge. Another important initiative was the YXE Connects event held on May 4, 2015. Organizations such as City Centre Church, Connect Church YXE, The Lighthouse, the United Way of Saskatoon and Area, Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre, Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership, Saskatoon Health Region, and Saskatoon Regional Intersectoral Committee partnered to organize and host the city of Saskatoon’s first YXE Connects. Similar Connect events have been held across the country to act as one-stop shops for vulnerable members of our community to access services in one place, on one day. The YXE Connects was held at two locations—White Buffalo Youth Lodge and City Centre Church—in the neighbourhood of Riversdale and attracted an estimated 600 attendees.

This report is based on a survey of YXE Connects participants. The study received ethics approval from the University of Saskatchewan’s Behavioural Ethics Board (Beh-REB) to protect the informed consent of participants, their voluntary participation, confidentiality, safety, and anonymity. The short survey was designed to be easy to read and answer and took about ten minutes to complete. A total of six volunteer researchers assisted the CUISR researcher and the principal investigator in conducting the surveys. Volunteers attended a training session prior to data collection that emphasised techniques for interviewing respondents in an ethically responsible manner. Volunteer researchers secured consent (oral, implied, or written). Participation was voluntary and no names were recorded. A total of 98 surveys were completed on May 4th, 2015, covering demographic information, people’s expectations of the event, access to services, barriers to services, and what improvements could be made when planning future events.

The findings of the report are discussed in these five sections: Demographic information, Perceptions of YXE Connects, Future YXE Connects events, Service use, and Unmet services and needs. The majority of study participants (n=98) were between the ages of 26 and 49 years (58%), female (64%), and Aboriginal (61.2%). The majority (90%) of the participants called Saskatoon home, while the remaining 10% indicated other locations as home, including Biggar, Ontario, Red Pheasant Cree Nation reserve, Meadow Lake, Winnipeg, Moosomin First Nation Cree Nation reserve, Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, and Yorkton. When asked how long they had resided in Saskatoon, the majority (64.3%) reported more than 5 years.

When asked what they expected to get at the event, the most common services and supports listed were housing help (32%) and health resources (32%), employment counseling (29%), food (29%), clothing (29%), skills training (23%), personal care items (23%), and ID clinic (23%), Participants also anticipated opportunities to learn and to volunteer and to get to know other people in the community. In terms of satisfaction, 68% found the event excellent, very good, or good and looked forward to future events. Participants expressed a desire to be more involved with the event and looked to organizers to include their voices when planning future events. These four themes emerged:

Structure and schedule of event
• Hand out maps, lists of the services, and schedule of events
• Maybe have the event on a weekend
• Close the block outside and have services outside as well
• Have more speakers and entertainment
• Host more than once a year

Community building
• Set aside spaces to share stories
• Recruit and involve more homeless and Aboriginal people in the planning and volunteering
• Involve more local small businesses

Advertising
• Ensure better advertising and more food
• Hand out posters on streets
• Recruit volunteers in advance

Increased services and learning opportunities
• Have a broader range of education programs
• Ensure more variety of services and employment opportunities
• Offer opportunities to learn about First Nations culture
• Involve organizations that can help us learn about family trees, ancestry, history
• Provide more clothing options and personal care items (blankets, tents, back packs)

In terms of service use in the last six months, 64% had accessed the Food Bank; 60%, health clinics; 47%, hospitals or emergency rooms; 44%, church-related services; 36%, drop-in centres; 31%, ID help; 23%, Saskatoon Housing Authority; and 22%, shelters. Other notable findings were that some barriers people faced in Saskatoon included discrimination, long wait times, difficult application processes, substandard housing, and shortages of affordable housing.

If people had challenging experiences, many also shared positive, community building experiences, including those at YXE Connects. Being able to take part in YXE Connects was perceived as a great way to volunteer and get to know the community. Some organizations and agencies—such as the Food Bank, The Lighthouse, Westside community clinic SWITCH, Avenue Community Centre (now OUT Saskatoon), Friendship Inn, detox supports, Open Door Society, and St. Mary’s Church—were also reported as places building positive relationships. Services that would improve people’s lives included housing (72%), education and training (53%), employment (49%), transportation (49%), help finding jobs (45%), food security (38%), and health resources (38%).

These four themes emerged when participants identified what was both important and likely to make their own or other people’s lives better:

Services and needs
• Address barriers between haves and have-nots.
• Offer greater variety of counselling services.
• Ensure more homes for people with disabilities.
• Increase support to help mothers get their kids back.
• Offer more services dealing with the effects of residential schools.
• Provide more supports for people living with HIV.
• Improve transportation.
• Provide more accessible streets and sidewalks for people with disabilities.
• Invest in more mental health services.

Planning of the event
• Plan to have more children’s activities.
• Plan food. Food was a great idea but they ran out; should have talked to Friendship inn to get an idea of how much food to plan for.
• Provide a place next year where people who are homeless can share their stories. Like this talking with you felt really good, like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.

Housing and shelters
• Need support to become part of the community and reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
• Need safer locations for shelters, and better places to live.
• Need better housing supports for youth and single people who face or are experiencing homelessness.
• Open services and shelters after hours when you’re dealing with the homeless. Build around their hours, and should have books or resources to look for services.
• Need more affordable housing. A major thing is stability.

Opportunities to contribute
• I appreciate the event and the opportunity to talk about poverty. I appreciate all the hard work that went into it.
• Would like to be part of the task force that addresses housing problems and offer mental help supports to others.

In conclusion, the level of satisfaction with the YXE Connects was high with 65% finding the event excellent, very good, or good. The first annual YXE Connects event was successful at reaching out to those most vulnerable to homelessness in Saskatoon. Some promising features that have been linked to YXE Connects success are its involvement of community resources, services, agencies, and volunteers. Future planning of events should continue to look at increasing the range of services, educational opportunities, and enhance involvement from those who experience homelessness or housing insecurity.

A recurrent theme in these and other responses was the desire to be heard and respected, to be included and welcomed and to end the cycles of discrimination and abuse. Several participants reported volunteering at the event and others expressed a desire to be included in future event planning and implementation. In fact, volunteering emerged as an important means for people to feel included and valued in the community.
Housing and shelter supports were key to addressing issues of isolation and loneliness and to building a safe, inclusive community where those most vulnerable (including youth, single people, the homeless) could access safe, affordable, and better housing—and find opportunities to contribute, to address poverty, housing, and mental health concerns.

INTRODUCTION

The annual cost of homelessness to the Canadian economy is $7.05 billion. . . .
The point is that homelessness is a problem or a crisis that we created. And if we created it, we can end it.
(Gaetz, Donaldson, Richter, & Gulliver, 2013, p. 8, 15)

Homelessness in Canada is an increasing concern; on any given night 35, 000 Canadians are homeless and 235, 000 people in Canada can experience homelessness in a year. While Canada’s population has increased by 30% over the last 25 years, national investments in housing have decreased by 46% from $115 to $60 per capita (Gaetz, Gulliver, & Richter, 2014). As a result of research evidence of the changing landscape and community experience and commitments, efforts have moved from crisis intervention to prevention, housing placement, and housing-first strategies supported by the federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) with considerable success in provinces from New Brunswick and Quebec to Alberta and British Columbia. In Saskatoon, for example, recent efforts to address homelessness include the Journey Home Housing First at Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service; a Housing Locator at the Lighthouse, specifically working with landlords to create interest in reducing homelessness and supporting all the housing placement programs; a Rapid Re-Housing Team out of the Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre and the Friendship Inn; centralized intake for all housing placement programs out of the Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre and the Friendship Inn; The Lighthouse new housing placement case managers; Housing First for Families at White Buffalo Youth Lodge. In a related initiative, City Centre Church, Connect Church YXE, The Lighthouse, the United Way of Saskatoon and Area, Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre, Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership, Saskatoon Health Region, and Saskatoon Regional Intersectoral Committee hosted Saskatoon’s first annual YXE Connects event, on May 4, 2015, bringing together community agencies, companies, and service providers to deliver housing supports, health care, and services to those who may be facing housing instability, homelessness, or who may be at risk of homelessness. Like other Connect events across the country, it was a one-stop shop for vulnerable members of our community to access services in one place, on one day.

Held in two locations in the neighbourhood of Riversdale, White Buffalo Youth Lodge and City Centre Church, YXE Connects offered free services that ranged from a clothing depot, ID clinic, haircuts, chiropractic treatment, diabetes and breast cancer programming, immunization and HIV and Hepatitis C testing, advice on personal finances and income tax, mental health supports, legal support, housing help, employment and job search supports, refugee and immigrant supports, and a free BBQ for all those who attended. According to DeeAnn Mercier of the Lighthouse, the hope was that “people can build relationships and get to know what supports and services are out there for them” (cited in Warren, 2015). Overall, YXE Connects attracted around 600 people who were pleased with the event: “It's really informative for the community. They should have more of this type of thing for the community. It's really friendly," (cited in Adam, 2015). Echoing the voices of those who attended YXE Connects, this report explores the perceptions of those who attended the event and agreed to share their experiences of housing and homelessness, access to services, and the YXE Connects event itself. The objectives of the research study include:

• To gather data on those attending YXE Connects, including demographic information and needs relating to housing (including absolute homeless, sheltered homeless, hidden homeless, and at-risk homeless).
• To complete a needs assessment examining service use patterns and needs.
• To identify needs that may currently be unmet or under-serviced.
• To gather data to help plan future annual YXE Connects events.

The report includes a brief literature review, a review of research methods, and a discussion of findings about people’s reasons for attending the event, their experience of it and how it might be improved, what services they currently use, and what would make their lives better.

Jimmy, Ryan and Isobel M. Findlay (2015). YXE Connects 2015 A Research Report. Saskatoon: Community-University Institute for Social Research.