Housing SheltersPublished on 26 September 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator
Hon. Art Eggleton:
Minister, welcome once again. In your mandate letter from the Prime Minister, there is one clause I want to draw to your attention. It asked you to work with the Minister of Status of Women and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to ensure “ . . . that no one fleeing domestic violence is left without a place to turn by growing and maintaining Canada’s network of shelters and transition houses.”
As you know, minister, women facing domestic violence are far more likely to experience homelessness than a typical Canadian, even more so if that woman is indigenous.
According to the Homeless Hub, on any given night in Canada, 3,491 women and their 2,724 children sleep in shelters because it isn’t safe to stay at home.
While shelters work in emergency circumstances, they are not a long-term or even a medium-term solution. These women and their children need the option of quickly moving into a more permanent residence if they are to return to any kind of normalcy in their lives.
Now, this falls in line with the Housing First approach to homelessness.
My question for you today is in two parts: First, which new minister tasked with an indigenous file will you be working with on this matter; and, second, more to the point, what has been done so far to ensure that these women and their children are moved away from the shelter system and into more stable housing when escaping an abusive partner?
Hon. Amarjeet Sohi, P.C., M.P., Minister of Infrastructure and Communities: Thank you for asking that question. If you allow me, I want to share a story with you. It’s a story of struggle, but it is also a story of hope.
When I was a city councillor, I got a call in my office from a young mother of three children looking for help. She was almost to be evicted from a shelter because she had mental health and addiction issues. Luckily, because there was support available in the community, my office was able to connect her to the Housing First initiative.
I ran into that mother about a year later. Within that one-year time frame, she was able to put her life together. Her children were back in school, she was holding a stable job, and she was seeking help for her mental health.
That is what it means. This story says that if you give people opportunity, when you give them a safe and stable place to live, they will succeed. Just imagine, for a minute, if that mother didn’t have that place. What would have happened to her and her children? It would have been a loss for society and her.
That’s why our government is committed to developing a national housing strategy that Minister Duclos has undertaken in consultation with the provinces, territories and municipalities. We will be investing close to $12 billion into that. That is new money on top of what is already available.
Through Budget 2016, we focused particularly on shelters for indigenous women. Close to $200 million was invested in that.
I work very closely with Minister Duclos now with the creation of Indigenous Services, a new department under Minister Philpott. There will be an increased focus on that because this is really important for all of us. There has to be a stable place for people to live, especially women fleeing domestic violence.