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Hidden homeless

Study by Grenfell Campus, partners uncovers housing shortage in western Newfoundland

By Pamela Gill

Homelessness in western Newfoundland is a hidden problem.

The finding is the result of a recent housing study conducted in the Corner Brook-Humber Valley region.

“Fifty-one individuals identified as homeless,” said research assistant Amanda Affram, a graduate of the master of arts in environmental policy, who will be pursuing a PhD in transdisciplinary sustainability at Grenfell Campus this fall. “These individuals lived with family and friends, in short-term rentals and in transitional housing. Very few lived in unsheltered places.”

The research team of the Quantifying Housing Needs in Western Newfoundland project held a housing forum for housing stakeholders at the new Centre for Research and Innovation in Corner Brook to unveil the results of the study.

Two people stand by a podium table with a laptop on it and a screen behind them. There are numerous windows and a large pendant light above.
From left are graduate students Abdul Rasheed Ature and Amanda Affram presenting the findings of the housing survey.
Photo: Submitted

The project was a collaboration between the Community Mental Health Initiative (CMHI), Grenfell Campus and Newfoundland and Labrador Housing (NL Housing) and was funded through the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home program.

Stakeholders at the forum included housing service providers, municipal governments, Indigenous organizations, health-service providers, mental health service providers, not-for-profit organizations, researchers and students.

The research, which focused on the Corner Brook, Bay of Islands and Humber regions of western Newfoundland, aimed to update existing data around housing and homelessness, as well as highlight trends in demographics, housing characteristics and housing experiences that should be addressed to better support residents.

The research emphasized identifying the needs of tenants, including those in core housing needs and individuals experiencing homelessness.

Core housing need

In layman’s terms, someone is in “core housing need” if they are living in an unsuitable, inadequate or unaffordable dwelling and are unable to afford alternative housing in their community.

Just under 45 per cent of the 109 tenants in the survey were in core housing need due to affordability and/or adequacy.

“Not having appropriate housing is devastating.” — Jade Kearley

Of that 45 per cent, the majority reason was a lack of affordable housing.

Jade Kearley is the interagency co-ordinator for the Community Mental Health Initiative, the lead partner organization for the project.

“Living in affordable, comfortable housing is about more than having a roof over your head,” she said. “Not having appropriate housing is devastating — it affects your mental health and your physical health.”

Service providers such as CMHI recommended an increase in public housing units as well as increased income support rates to the growing needs of tenants.

Increased student housing and an increase in the number of direct and emergency funding programs were also recommended.

“Working with faculty and students at Grenfell Campus, as well as other partner organizations, enabled us to collect critical information that we can now use to leverage funding and support to address this serious issue,” said Ms. Kearley.

Online report

In addition to Ms. Affram, four other graduate students were involved in the research project.

“Projects like this offer an enriched student experience,” she said. “Community projects provide the opportunity for mutually beneficial partnerships and collaboration — opportunities for the transfer of knowledge and diverse learning.”

The full report as well as the full partner/researcher list can be found on the project website.

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