‘We have a place to return’: Couple secure affordable housing after years of homelessness – Toronto | PKBNEWS

After nearly three years of living homeless, Noah and Shawn are able to cook meals in their own kitchens and sleep with a roof over their heads after finally securing rent-geared-to-income (RGI) housing. thanks to the Rapid Rehousing initiative.

PKBNEWS has agreed to identify the couple by their first names only, for privacy reasons.

Shawn said on December 13, the couple met with housing workers to visit an RGI unit in Toronto.

“The day we came to see the unit, the first thing they did before signing the lease was handing over the keys to us,” Shawn said.

“I was shocked. I asked them two or three times and they said yes, the unit is officially yours.

Since 2019, the couple have relied on the city’s shelter system and have occasionally resorted to sleeping outdoors.

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Noah said the couple were thrilled to finally have a home.

“It’s just amazing. Just to have that sense of relief that when we go out we know where we’re going to go that night,” he said.

“We have a place to return to that we can call home.”

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In the fall, the couple contacted a housing worker from Na-Me-Res, an organization that provides outreach, transitional and permanent housing services to Indigenous men. They were told there may be rent-geared-to-income (RGI) housing available for the couple as part of the rapid rehousing initiative.

Shawn said the couple worked with the housing worker to gather all the paperwork needed to get the housing. They needed new IDs, birth certificates and also proof that previous arrears had been paid.

A letter from the City of Toronto Housing Secretariat said the couple were ineligible for RGI housing due to unpaid arrears with the District Municipality of Muskoka and Ottawa Community Housing Corporation – 896.55 $ and $32.50, respectively.

But documents Shawn said he submitted as part of the application show the couple had a payment plan in place with the District Municipality of Muskoka and Ottawa Community Housing was fully repaid in 2020.

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In a statement provided Dec. 5, Abi Bond, executive director of the City of Toronto’s Housing Secretariat, said Shawn and Noah’s “housing application for rent-geared-to-income (RGI) assistance from Shawn and Noah is currently eligible, with priority status for the homeless. .

“Within two days of being made aware of the couple’s situation, staff from the Housing Secretariat’s Housing Access Team were able to work with the couple to resolve issues of social housing arrears with another municipality.

Valesa Faria, director of housing policy and strategy for the City of Toronto, said in a statement that while access to an affordable rent-geared-to-income home will help some people exit homelessness, nearly 50% of people using Toronto’s shelter system also need access to a full range of health and social services.

“In September 2020, City Council approved the 24-Month Housing and Homelessness COVID-19 Response Plan, to accelerate the implementation of the City’s HousingTO 2020-2030 10-Year Action Plan and create 3,000 permanent housing opportunities for homeless people as a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement read.

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“With support from the federal and provincial governments, nearly 3,600 new supportive and affordable housing options are available.

Faria said that between January 2020 and November 2022, more than 13,000 people were moved out of shelters and into permanent affordable and supported housing.

Diana Chan McNally, harm reduction case manager at All Saints Church Community Centre, said she was happy to see Shawn and Noah in permanent accommodation, but added that it doesn’t happen often enough.

“I don’t see that happening very frequently unfortunately. There are definitely people I know who have been homeless for over a decade,” she said.

“We need to connect people to housing workers and we need to do this fairly so that if you stay in the shelter system you get the same level of support as if you were outside in a camp…but the same time. time, housing that people can afford and maintain.

The couple credit the work of the Na-Me-Res individuals for helping them find a home.

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“Honestly, I was losing hope in the actual process. … The system is a revolving door – from shelter to shelter, from hotel to hotel – and because of the very low income you bring in, you cannot escape it,” Shawn said.

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“The amount of work [Na-Me-Res] helping people like us is remarkable. They do a lot to help the community and without Na-Me-Res I don’t think we would be in the position we are in today.

The couple said they are now focused on rebuilding their future and plan to give back to the organizations that helped them get back on their feet.

“It’s just to give back and help the people we were in their position a month ago,” Noah said.

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