Housing and Health: Exploring the Connection
Waterloo - Did you know that 38% of people who are unstably housed have unmet health care needs compared to 12% of the general population? Our community is impacted by the health care issues facing those who are unstably housed. This is a key finding of this year’s Homelessness and Housing Umbrella Group (HHUG) annual homelessness and housing report card. The group cites that as a caring and compassionate community, we need to be mindful that our health care system is intended to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well being of all residents of Canada including those who are unstably housed or experiencing homelessness. Yet those who are unstably housed or homeless will be unlikely to benefit from these standards.
Charles Nichols, HHUG Chair, stated “The population in Waterloo region is growing and changing. That's why we need to plan long-term and act strategically in the short term to get there. We want an inclusive and resilient community, but that requires housing stability for everyone - every man, woman, child, infant for every family. Everyone deserves a home!".”
The group praised the Region of Waterloo for creating more Community Housing sites. Areas in which new units were developed in 2011 included Cambridge, Waterloo New Hamburg and Elmira. However, the overall community rental vacancy rate was 1.7%, well below the healthy 3%. This lack of supply increases rents making it difficult for households to pay the rent and buy other necessities. As well, the group is concerned about increases in emergency shelter bed nights and waiting lists for supportive housing.
The 2012 Homelessness and Housing Umbrella Group Report Card was released today. Local politicians joined members of the HHUG and other housing groups to hear that the overall Housing Stability Grade for the community in 2011 is a “C-”. “As a community, we face significant challenges due to population growth and the economic condition. But we are encouraged by the agreement between the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario to provide $12.8 million to fund new affordable housing,” Nichols said. “Safe, stable, affordable housing is a key social determinant of health.”
The report card is a tool for our community to help raise awareness and understand how we are planning and what steps we are taking as a community to end homelessness and promote housing stability in Waterloo Region. Everyone has a role to play including all levels of government, private sector, non-profits and community members.
The Housing and Homelessness Umbrella Group (HHUG) is a coordinating group for all community groups working on issues of housing and homelessness. Funding for this project is provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The Report Card and Booklet are available on their website at www.hhug.ca