New book, advocate suggest ways to prevent homelessness

The editor of a new book says it’s time to rethink the way society combats homelessness because the current approach is not working. James Hughes and the contributing authors to the book make the case to stop the problem before it starts.

Ending Homelessness in Canada: The Case for Homelessness Prevention looks at the root causes of homelessness and makes suggestions on how to stop it. One of the most important steps is to give rent subsidies to non-profit organizations, Hughes told Information Morning Moncton on Friday.

Hughes, the CEO of Montreal’s Old Brewery Mission and a former deputy minister in New Brunswick’s Department of Social Development, said many landlords are no longer interested in being involved. “Rent subsidies are no longer of interest to many landlords because they have so many alternatives. There’s so much demand and that’s really favouring the owners right now, favouring the landlords.”

He said it’s only natural that landlords would prefer to rent at full market value than to someone “who’s got a backpack full of challenges such as the people we’re supporting in most cases.” The solution, said Hughes, is to give rent subsidies to non-profits who will ensure they’re used to maintain affordable housing — and to build more.

The executive director of the New Brunswick Non-Profit Housing Association agrees. Peter Corbyn, whose group represents 17 organizations who own and operate 6,500 units across the province, would like to see all rental subsidies given to non-profits. By their very definition, not-for-profits are not motivated by profit, they’re in it for the people they help, said Corbyn. He said these organizations are led by volunteers, many of whom have dedicated decades of their lives to the cause “because it’s the right thing to do.”

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