Caroline Cochrane: Draft Homelessness Strategy

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — March 30, 2023

Check against delivery

Mr. Speaker, homelessness is a reality that far too many people experience. The factors that contribute to homelessness are  complex, and unique to each individual who experiences it. The challenges and solutions vary by community, and differ in the Northwest Territories compared to urban centres in the South. This is why we need an all-of-government strategy to address homelessness in the Northwest Territories.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, or even a suite of approaches that work for every individual and family. Multifaceted, person-centred approaches, sustained effort, and collaboration among governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector are all required to address the needs of individuals and families living without a stable, safe, or appropriate place to call home.

Mr. Speaker, later today I will table a draft of A Way Home: A Comprehensive Strategy to Address Homelessness in the Northwest Territories. The Government of the Northwest Territories’ homelessness strategy is being released as a draft so we can continue to incorporate meaningful input from stakeholders prior to finalization.

The proposed actions focus on individuals and families who are chronically homeless,  however the actions lend themselves to prevention wherever possible therefore residents in precarious living situations will also benefit from this strategy.

The homelessness strategy identifies nine areas of action, and puts forward the ambitious goal to achieve functional zero homelessness. A functional zero target recognizes that homelessness will never be eradicated completely, but that action can be taken to prevent it wherever possible, and homelessness can be brief, rare, and non-recurring.

The strategy recognizes the crucial role frontline service providers, both within GNWT and community partners, serve in supporting vulnerable community members and the need for ongoing, solutions-oriented conversations and action. We recognize the need to ensure shelter services have appropriate resources, reflect the needs of their users, and identify potential solutions such as multi-year and better coordinated funding, on-going training, and GNWT support.

We know there is a need for wraparound services and this strategy aims to improve access and use of culturally safe mental health and addictions services for residents, especially those experiencing chronic homelessness. This strategy also identifies the need for transitional housing and supported living arrangements as well as other actions that are already underway in this area.

Mr. Speaker, our government recognizes we need to do a better job of coordinating the delivery of our programs and services aimed at addressing homelessness. This strategy is intended to create an environment for positive change and a shift in organizational culture toward more person-centred services and improved collaboration between the GNWT and service providers.

We want to ensure that our actions to address homelessness align with the needs of communities and Indigenous governments. Individual communities and regions may have their own solutions and the GNWT has a role in supporting those initiatives. As well, we must review our own programs and policies, and the renewal of Housing Northwest Territories as well as the review of the GNWT’s Income Assistance Program are examples that promise to contribute to the desired outcomes of this strategy.

We also recognize the need for better data collection, respectful information-sharing, and evaluated results. This strategy incorporates regular meetings with community partners and will be subject to periodic review and updating, starting three years after its implementation.

Mr. Speaker, over the coming weeks, we will further engage with Indigenous governments, community governments, non-profits, researchers and academics, those with lived experiences, and the broader public to seek their input and suggestions. Before the end of this government, we are aiming to finalize a strategy that reflects their wisdom and sets the direction for community members who are experiencing homelessness to find a way home.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.