Recovery for All: Ending homelessness in Canada, once and for all

October 20, 2020

The Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network is endorsing the Recovery for All campaign, find out why.

By Debbie McGraw and Al Wiebe,
Co-Chairs of the Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network


We formed the Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network with the express aim of bringing lived experience perspectives to efforts to end homelessness in Canada – we must have our voices included in the strategies, policies, research and funding that affects us. “Nothing about us without us.”

Recovery for All is a national advocacy campaign designed by our partners at the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. The campaign is urging the federal government to make bold investments in housing and ending homelessness. Recovery for All has laid out an ambitious plan to end homelessness, save taxpayers billions, create over 500,000 jobs and importantly for us, ensure that people with lived experience of homelessness have a voice.

We’re endorsing Recovery for All because it’s an opportunity to make sure lived voices are heard in the halls of power. It’s high time we were involved in the decisions that impact us. Homelessness in Canada is the unintended byproduct of policy choices made over 30 years ago. To solve homelessness, we must reverse the policies that created it in the first place. This means engaging in the political process.  Our community can become a force to be reckoned with. 36% of Canadians have been homeless themselves or know someone who has. It’s estimated that 235,000 people experience it every year, with 1.6 million households in core housing need and at risk. If even a small percentage of our community became involved in the political process, people with lived experience would finally, and rightfully, have political power and an ability to reverse the policy decisions that created homelessness in the first place.

Recovery for All presents an opportunity to activate and mobilize our community. Thousands of our peers have already joined the campaign. By joining strategy sessions, sending letters, signing our petitions, reaching out to our networks and getting involved in the campaign, we are providing lived expertise and amplifying the voices of our community members across Canada.

The Recovery for All campaign’s six-point plan lays out an affordable and achievable plan to end homelessness in Canada. Here are some of the key attributes that relate directly to our work:

A federal commitment (with timelines and targets) to the prevention and elimination of homelessness with expanded federal investment in community-based homelessness responses, including a national definition of homelessness that accounts for the unique ways women, youth, Indigenous and racialized peoples experience homelessness.

The campaign highlights the need to better identify the experience of homelessness as it varies from person to person. A definition that properly captures this will do a better job of informing policy. You can’t address the needs if you don’t accurately know what the issues are for people on the ground.

A national guaranteed minimum income.

Alleviating poverty is crucial to preventing homelessness in the first place. A minimum income will ensure that people in greatest need have minimum financial resources to meet basic needs, including housing. The campaign calls for this minimum income to not stigmatize or exclude people, that it shouldn’t penalize anyone who wish to work, and it must meet the cost of living. As people with lived experience, we must have the autonomy and independence to spend our money to meet our needs and a guaranteed minimum income will do that.

Construction of over 300,000 new housing units and Homeless Housing Benefit.

Across Canada, we hear over and over that one of the biggest barriers is enough affordable and supportive housing. This campaign is calling on the federal government to construct at least 300,000 new permanently affordable and supporting housing units—ensuring the prioritization of housing to people experiencing or at greatest risk of homelessness. The campaign is also calling for the creation of a new targeted homeless housing benefit to move people rapidly out of homelessness and prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.

Meaningful implementation of the right to housing, which includes the involvement of people with lived experience.

The National Housing Strategy Act calls for the formation of a National Housing Council (including people with lived experience), a National Housing Advocate and review panel — These mechanisms provide critical oversight and accountability measures, which are key to changing policy. They are also  powerful spaces for people with lived experience to have a say in the evolution of the National Housing Strategy—access to justice and a means to identify and resolve structural issues that create homelessness It’s been over a year since the National Housing Strategy Act was passed and neither the Advocate nor the Council have been appointed. Recovery for All is pushing for the immediate appointment of these important offices.

Implementing measures to lessen the impact of the financialization of rental housing markets.

Canada’s housing crisis is being deepened by wealthy investors buying up rental housing and increasing rent to make it more profitable for them and unaffordable for people living in poverty. This leaves many of us facing eviction, unable to afford rent or live in our own communities—and this has become much more difficult during the pandemic. The extension of the NHS to include a national or universal eviction policy is vital. Provinces have varying policies and would ensure fair policies. Following COVID-19, there is a risk of more predatory purchases, much like after the 2008 economic crisis. The campaign is calling for regulatory measures to restrict this practice and funding to allow social and non-profit housing providers to purchase properties for conversion to permanent affordable or supportive housing.

People with lived experience of homelessness are the experts in ending homelessness. Elevating the voices of people with lived and living experience, and reflecting that valuable expertise in policy and decision-making, is the only way we will end homelessness in Canada. The CLELN is pleased to endorse the Recovery for All campaign and is committed to working with government and communities to end homelessness in Canada once and for all.

If you are experiencing homelessness now, or you ever have, please consider joining the Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network. Help us end homelessness in Canada. Join us today.

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