Survey of Community Support Needs For Single Adults in Kingston
The idea of conducting a Community Support Needs Survey was conceived in response to a growing awareness that a significant number of low-income, single adults in Kingston lacked affordable and permanent housing. The front line staff at Home Base Housing were meeting increasing numbers of people who appeared to be in a recurring cycle of having and then losing their housing, without choice, resulting in instability and transience. The survey attempted to identify the reasons behind the apparent transience and to highlight the specific support needs that could assist low-income singles find and maintain more permanent housing.
The survey was mailed to 35 social service and non-profit housing agencies in Kingston (see appendix A). Twenty-eight agencies responded to the survey (80%) and Home Base staff conducted personal interviews with twenty-three of those agencies.
The agencies which responded to the survey provided estimates of the number of people affected by transience. Some people may have been known to several of the agencies and were over-counted as a result. Although not scientific, the survey provides an overview of the issue and suggests some of the underlying reasons for transience.
Inadequate, Expensive AccommodationAgencies were asked to estimate the number of clients who were unable to find or maintain adequate, affordable housing.
24 agencies responded.
|% of clientele||Agencies||Number of clients|
|at least 50%||4||635|
|at least 20%||4||131|
|at least 1%||16||31|
The twenty-four agencies which responded indicated that there were 797 clients whose housing was too expensive, inadequate or both. "Adequate housing" is housing where people feel that they can make a home for themselves. This involves having a choice of where they live and with whom they will live, the degree of privacy and space they prefer, how long they want to stay in a given place and where to go upon leaving. For example, someone recently discharged from an institution who ends up sleeping on a living-room couch with friends or relatives may not find that to be adequate housing.
Agencies were asked to estimate how many addresses their clients had within the previous year. The table below indicates that a significant number of people in the community are essentially homeless, moving three or more times per year.
Number of times per year that clients move.
|Number of client moves per year||Number of clients||Number of agencies|
|3 times or more||1698||12|
Fifteen agencies (54% of respondents) said that they lack the resources to provide their clients with life skills training. For example, there are many people with fixed incomes who do not have skills in budgeting and money management and they are unable to pay rent or utility charges. The survey also pointed out that even people who have the ability to budget are often paying more than they can afford in rent and utilities. Occasionally, they are not aware of community resources such as the food banks or clothing depots.
One agency noted that many of their clients lack the ability to budget, spending their money as soon as they receive it, and leaving themselves short for the rent or the utilities. Substance abuse was often mentioned as a contributing factor.
Other agencies reported clients who have been evicted because of an inability to deal effectively with the behaviour of their friends. For example, the survey showed that many adolescents who are living independently for the first time, give in to peer pressure and let their friends "party" in their apartments. The survey also contained examples of people who have problems with partners who do not respect the rights of other tenants. These agencies felt that evictions could have been avoided if these tenants had received assistance and direction from a neutral third party along with support to deal with their friends who were using the tenants apartment as a place to "hang out."
Other agencies reported clients who were lacking skills in personal hygiene and home management. This leads to problems with neighbours and the landlord, and can lead to eviction.
Another respondent said that a support worker is needed to actually take people into the community to the services they need. This agency noted that there are many services available in the community, but some people need direct, hands-on support to gain access to them.
Eight agencies (29% of respondents) felt that many of their clients would be better able to maintain stable accommodation if they could develop employment related skills and find part-time or full-time work. These agencies identified a need among their clients for support and coaching in the areas of job search skills, resume writing, and reading want ads. Also, many people are not aware of the training and educational programmes available to them.
One respondent identified a need for support services for recession victims. This agency is dealing with an increasing number of people who are out of work for the first time in their lives. These people are not aware of the resources available to them because they have never had to use them before.
Another area of concern that the survey identified as standing in the way of people finding or maintaining stable accommodation was substance abuse (18% of agencies surveyed). One respondent stated that people with drinking/drug problems need help in finding a place to live where the other tenants are not drinking and "partying". Another respondent noted that many people with substance abuse problems receive their social assistance cheques and spend the money on alcohol/drugs, not leaving enough money for the rent. The survey also indicated that many people leave an alcohol/drug treatment centre, and they receive little follow-up or support. Without adequate follow-up, they are at a much higher risk of relapse, which leads to problems with the landlord, resulting in eviction.
Four agencies (14%) reported clients who have problems finding or maintaining stable accommodation because they display inappropriate social behaviour. The survey contained many examples of people who do not have the social skills to deal appropriately with their neighbours. One manager of a non-profit housing agency had to evict a tenant who displayed aggressive behaviour towards his neighbours. The manager felt that this tenant would not have been evicted if he had received support and social skills training.
Landlord / Tenant Mediation
In explaining the inability of their clients to maintain stable accommodation, a number of the respondents to our survey reported a shortage of support services in the community for people not living in supportive housing. For example, 22 agencies (79% of the respondents), reported being unable to meet their clients needs for advocacy services, especially with landlord/tenant disputes. The survey showed that many tenants are unaware of their rights, and consequently, they are "ripped off" or harassed, by their landlords.
Twelve agencies (43% of respondents) reported clients living in poorly maintained, sub-standard housing. As one agency noted, these tenants don't know where to turn for support and move from one undesirable apartment, only to end up in another. Another agency said that many of their clients are unaware of legal avenues and are often too intimidated to challenge a landlord. According to the survey, there are many people in this community who live in houses or apartments where they don't feel safe, due to undesirable neighbours and security concerns stemming from the poor condition of the buildings.
Six agencies (21% of respondents) reported clients who face discrimination in their efforts to find or maintain affordable housing. These agencies lack the time or resources to advocate on behalf of these clients in their search for affordable housing. The survey reported that single parents, former mental health patients, former federal or provincial inmates and adolescents face discrimination by landlords in their search for stable accommodation.
All of the twenty-six agencies which responded indicated that they would have used a generalist housing outreach service if it existed. Thirteen of the respondents indicated that they would have referred at least twenty individuals. The number of potential referrals in the last year if a Housing Outreach Worker support program was in place was 1908. It should be noted that one emergency shelter estimated that it could have referred 1200 of the 1800 individuals who used the shelter in the past year.
The twenty-eight housing and social service agencies which responded to the survey provided some useful information regarding the number of single adults for whom transience is a way of life. Respondents indicated that 1698 clients had moved three times or more in the past year with most of the people moving through the emergency shelters. The emergency shelters in Kingston offer people a much needed but temporary respite from abusive relationships and life on the street. Even after taking into consideration that some of the people reflected in the figure of 1698 people were possibly over-counted, it is clear that the problems associated with not having a stable place to call "home" affects a great many people in the Kingston community.
There are many factors which lead to the cycle of transience and homelessness. Many people live in apartments or rooms which cost more than they can afford. The inability to pay rent or utilities eventually catches up with them and they are evicted. Also, there are many people with emotional or health related difficulties who refuse assistance when it is offered. However, there remains a group of people who could certainly benefit from assistance in finding affordable, adequate housing or in maintaining their current housing for a longer period of time.
There exists an assortment of supportive housing programs and community-based case-management programs for people with a range of support needs. Each of the programs tends to have a specific client eligibility profile and a formal intake and assessment procedure. Certainly, most of those programs also tend to have lengthy waiting lists. These programs are a tremendous help to many people but there are many others who do not fit the client profiles or choose not to be associated with formal programs. In some instances people are refused service because they have a history of disruptive or abusive behaviour.
The Kingston Housing Registry currently offers walk-in clients assistance in determining their housing needs and it provides listings of apartments in the lower-price range. A service which could provide additional support and community outreach to clients who require assistance above and beyond what the Registry can offer would be beneficial. Twenty-six of the agencies surveyed indicated that they felt there was a need for a generic community support program specific to assisting people with housing difficulties. There was a potential of 1908 referrals to such a service within the past year.
If a housing outreach program were to be offered in Kingston, respondents recommended that, ideally, the following services should be considered:
1) assist clients to access emergency shelters, receive medical assistance, and access food programs and financial assistance.
2) direct clients to existing services such as substance abuse treatment, supportive and / or affordable housing programs, life skills and social-recreational programs, legal services, crisis services etc.
3) offer assistance to staff in emergency shelters to find housing options for residents.
4) respond to requests from private and non-profit landlords to assist tenants to maintain their housing.
5) assist voluntary clients only and provide service at the most appropriate location.
After taking into consideration the methodological problems and the people who would not choose to use a community support program, the fact remains that there are many single adults in the community who fall through the cracks of the system and are caught up in a recurring cycle of homelessness and transience. A housing outreach support service would be welcomed by many housing and social service agencies as an adjunct to the services which they already provide.
Community Support Needs Survey of Single Adults in Kingston
Community Crisis Service
Salvation Army Harbour Light
Salvation Army Corrections
John Howard Society
King Cole Homes
Kingston Community Counselling Centre
Kingston Co-op Homes
Kingston Housing Authority
Kingston Interval House
Lois Miller Co-op
Options for Change
Porto Village Non-Profit Housing
St. Vincent de Paul
St. George's Lunch Program
Town Homes Kingston
Alcohol and Drug Referral Centre
Bronwen Wallace Centre
Kingston Aids Project
Kingston and District Immigrant Services
Kingston Friendship Homes
City Of Kingston Social Services
North Kingston Community Council
North Kingston Community Health Clinic
St. Lawrence Youth Association
Women's Training and Employment Program