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Community Council Joins Homeless Needs Survey Research Team

For Immediate Release: January 17, 2006

Victoria – The Victoria Cool Aid Society is pleased to announce a research partnership with the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria. Researcher Jane Worton has joined the team organizing the Homeless Needs Survey to provide guidance and assistance in research design, research implementation, statistical analysis, volunteer training and report writing.

“It was necessary to postpone the Homeless Needs Survey by a few weeks to give us more time to design and test the questionnaire, enumeration and training materials,” said Jane Worton.

The agency enumeration of those temporarily sheltered will now be conducted on Monday, February 5 at locations such as Street Link Shelter and the Native Friendship Centre. Questionnaires will be conducted by volunteers of those who are homeless and at risk of being homeless from Tuesday, February 6, through Friday, February 9.

“Building on our experience from the first Homeless Count, which was held two years ago this week, we have expanded and improved upon our original methodology,” said Kathy Stinson. “Rather than trying to find people where they sleep on a single night, our 250 volunteers will be meeting folks where they obtain services – at over 40 social service agencies throughout the capital region, from Sooke to Sidney and Salt Spring Island.”

As well the Salvation Army’s Beacon Bus has generously been loaned with volunteer drivers for the week so that the census of the region’s homeless population can also take place at a variety of outdoor locations such as parks and vacant lots.

“We are making a real effort to reach out this year to those who do not access traditional services,” said Worton. “As well, we want people who are in unstable or inadequate housing, and perhaps at risk of becoming homeless, to answer the questionnaire as well.”

The “snowball sampling” technique, taking place over four days, is designed to encourage people who are homeless to invite their peers to participate as well. In this way a larger data set from a wider variety of individuals can be collected.

Those who answer the questionnaire will be given a variety of needed resources to thank them for their time and opinions. The Homeless Needs Survey team is asking for donations to provide food and hot beverages at the survey locations and to assemble 1,000 kits to give away that will include items such as:

  • Gloves, mittens, socks and toques for the cold weather
  • Bottled water, food bars and dog biscuits
  • Re-useable coffee mugs
  • Good quality knapsacks
  • Toothbrushes, and small toothpastes and shampoos
  • Food for the survey locations, including coffee, tea, hot chocolate and soup, and healthy baked goods

    For more information about the Homeless Needs Survey visit Cool Aid’s web site at www.Coolaid.org.

– 30 –

Information:

Kathy Stinson, Executive Director, Victoria Cool Aid Society
or Don McTavish, Manager of Shelters
(250) 383-1977

Jane Worton, Researcher, Community Council
(250) 383-6166

Preliminary Enumeration and Homeless Needs Survey Results

For Immediate Release: March 2, 2007

Victoria – The Homeless Needs Survey, which was held from February 5-9, has identified 1,115 persons in the Capital Region who were homeless or unstably housed. [Note: Later revised upwards to 1,242 .]

An enumeration was conducted though a count in facilities which provide shelter to people who are homeless on Monday, February 5. The survey was conducted throughout the Capital Region from February 6-9, 2007, with questionnaires about housing needs completed by persons who were homeless or living in unstable housing. The questionnaire was conducted by over 200 volunteers indoors at over 40 social service provider locations and outdoors using the Salvation Army’s Beacon Bus.

“The Homeless Needs Survey will provide detailed and helpful information to over 60 participating service providers in the Capital Region,” said Kathy Stinson, the Executive Director of Cool Aid. “As well, the full research results will be shared with all levels of government and other community partners to help us better meet the needs of individuals and families who are inadequately housed in Greater Victoria.”

“The purpose of the survey was to gain a deeper understanding of what people who are homeless or unstably housed feel they need to find and maintain housing,” said Researcher Jane Worton of the Community Council. “We are grateful to the 815 people who completed questionnaires. They have shared personal information with us in order to help us provide better supports for the thousands of inadequately housed people in our community. We now have a wealth of good data to build action upon.”

The following table summarizes the enumeration and survey results:

Adults
Youth
(16-25)
Children (<16) Total
Male Female Transgender
Homeless 480 142 2 73 46 743
Unstable Housing 172 133 3 43 21 372
Total 652 275 5 116 67 1,115

“According to 2001 census data, 22,205 households in the Victoria Census Metropolitan Area were inadequately housed,” said Jane Worton. “We were able to interview 372 individuals in this situation – and this will provide the most detailed data ever about this large group in our communities.”

Making up just 2.8% of the local population, Aboriginal people, including First Nations, Metis, Inuit and Native, comprised 25% of those interviewed.

Only 11% of those interviewed were from outside BC, with the vast majority being from the Capital Regional District (73%) and elsewhere in BC (16%), often as close as Duncan and Vancouver.

The Homeless Needs Survey found people were homeless or unstably housed in all parts of the Capital Region. Although just a sample of the total number of people who are inadequately housed, the geographic distribution of interviewed individuals follows:

  • 73% in the four core municipalities including –
    • 496 people from Victoria (61%)
    • 48 people from Saanich (6%)
    • 24 people from Esquimalt (3%)
    • 6 people from Oak Bay (1%)
    • 22 people from an unspecified core municipality (3%)
  • 4% in the Western Communities (33 people)
  • 3% on the Saanich Peninsula (22 people)
  • 4% on Salt Spring Island (32 people)
  • 16% did not provide their municipality (132 people)

Rural and outlying communities were particularly under-represented due to the few number of survey locations and because social service providers in more sparsely populated regions often do not see their clients as frequently as those in the more urban areas.

Homeless counts frequently note underreporting of families who are homeless. The information from the Homeless Needs Survey will be complemented by the rich information gathered through the Burnside Gorge Community Association’s recent Homeless Families Outreach Project, using interviews with 432 families who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

A more detailed demographics report is enclosed. The full research report for the Homeless Needs Survey will be released in late March or April after a full analysis can be completed.

The Government of Canada has contributed funding to this initiative. For more information visit www.Coolaid.org.

– 30 –

Information:    www.Coolaid.org

Kathy Stinson, Executive Director, Victoria Cool Aid Society
or Don McTavish, Manager of Shelters
(250) 383-1977

Jane Worton, Researcher, Community Council
(250) 383-6166


Survey Questionnaire

The Questionnaire completed by homeless and unstably housed persons from February 6-9, 2007 is available online as a Word document.


2007 Homeless Needs Survey Initial Demographics Report

The purpose of the Homeless Needs Survey was to gain a deeper understanding of what people who are homeless or unstably housed feel they need to find and maintain housing.
As well as providing this needed information, the Homeless Needs Survey included an enumeration of people who are homeless.

Enumeration process

On Monday February 5, facilities which provide shelter to people who are homeless (i.e. shelters, transition houses, jails) counted their residents. This was added to the number of people who came forward for interviews, identified as homeless and self reported not staying in a shelter facility Monday night.

Through the Homeless Needs Survey enumeration and interviews, 1,115 people who were homeless or unstably housed were identified, including 116 youth and 67 children.

Table 1: Homeless and Unstably Housed People Identified through Homeless Needs Survey

Adults
Youth
(16-25)
Children (<16) Total
Male Female Transgender
Homeless 480 142 2 73 46 743
Unstable Housing 172 133 3 43 21 372
Total 652 275 5 116 67 1,115

Table 2: How Homeless and Unstably Housed People were reached through Homeless Needs Survey

Adults
Youth
(16-25)
Children (<16) Total
Male Female Transgender
Enumeration 337 107 n/a 48 64 556
Interviews with homeless and unstably housed (exluding people enumerated) 315 168 5 68 3 559
Total 652 275 5 116 67 1,115

* Please note that while enumeration data from facilities did not record anyone who was transgendered, 5 people reported they stayed in a facility which was enumerated and they were transgendered.

Homeless

There are at least 743 people who are homeless in BC’s Capital Region. We know this is an undercount, as all homeless counts are. People have the right to choose not to be counted, and many people exercise that right. In both 2005 and 2007, some people either hid from the volunteers looking for homeless people or did not come forward to be interviewed.

Unstable housing

The 372 people who came forward to be interviewed and identified as being in unstable housing is a good sample of the population of people in this housing situation in our region, but is not intended to be a count.

In 2001 there were 22,205 households in core housing need in BC’s Capital Region. Similar to the definition of unstable housing, a household is identified as being in core housing need if they cannot find somewhere to live that is reasonably good condition and big enough for the household without spending more than 30% of their income on shelter .

Overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in homeless and unstably housed populations

25% of people who were homeless or unstably housed identified as First Nations, Aboriginal, Metis, Inuit or Native. This is 10 times larger than the percent of Aboriginal people in the overall population. The 2001 Statistics Canada Census reported 2.8% of the population in the Victoria Census Metropolitan Area identified as Aboriginal.

Home grown homeless

A common myth about people who are homeless or unstably housed in our community is that most of these people came from outside of this region. The 2007 Homeless Needs Survey has provided further data to show this is not true. 73% of people who answered the question about what municipality they lived in when they were last stably housed reported living somewhere in the Capital Regional District. A further 16% reported living somewhere in BC, often only as far away as Duncan or Vancouver. Only 11% of people were from outside of BC.

People are homeless and unstably housed throughout BC’s Capital Region

Most participants (73%, 596 people) in the Homeless Needs Survey reported usually sleeping in one of the four core municipalities (Victoria 61%, 496 people; Saanich 6%, 48 people; Esquimalt 3%, 24 people; or Oak Bay 1%, 6 people). This was the first time the Homeless Needs Survey counted people in the Western Communities (4%, 33 people), the Peninsula (3%, 22 people) and on Saltspring Island (4%, 32 people). 132 people either did not know or did not answer the question about which municipality they usually slept in. The numbers for people sheltering outside of the core municipalities should be interpreted with additional caution. The lower numbers may reflect the smaller number of access points in these areas, different ways people in more rural areas access services, and communication of the Homeless Needs Survey overall outside of the core.

Underrepresentation of homeless and unstably housed families

Working closely with the Burnside Gorge Community Association, the Homeless Needs Survey identified a small number of families who were unstably housed or homeless at the time of the Homeless Needs Survey. It is particularly hard to capture a snapshot of homeless families when families experience homelessness in a fluid process; most families spend the duration of their homeless period in some combination of shelter arrangements, including transition houses, motels, family/friends, and on the street.

Identifying families experiencing homelessness is also more difficult as Burnside Gorge is the only local agency which provides outreach services specifically to families around housing issues. Where families who are homeless are accessing other services they are extremely unlikely to identify as homeless. Homeless counts frequently note underreporting of families who are homeless. The information from the Homeless Needs Survey will be complemented by the rich information gathered through the Burnside Gorge Community Association recent Homeless Families Outreach Project, using interviews with 432 families who were homeless or at risk of homelessness.

For more information

The full research report for the Homeless Needs Survey will be released in late March or April after a full analysis can be completed.

For questions about the above data, please contact Jane Worton, Researcher, Community Council at 383-6166 or Kathy Stinson, Executive Director, Victoria Cool Aid Society at 383-1977.

Homeless Needs Survey Research Report Issued

For Immediate Release: April 19, 2007

Victoria – The final research report of the Homeless Needs Survey, “Housing First – Plus Supports”, was released today by the Victoria Cool Aid Society, Community Council, Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe, and Saanich Councillor Judy Brownoff, representing the Capital Regional District.

The purpose of the Homeless Needs Survey (held February 5-9) was to gain a deeper understanding of what people who are homeless or unstably housed feel they need in order to find and maintain housing. Based on the survey of 815 homeless and unstably housed individuals in the Capital Region, from Sooke to Sidney and Salt Spring, the research report makes six basic recommendations:

  • Create a range of affordable housing options in the Capital Region.
  • Provide intensive community support for housing.
  • Provide a range of harm reduction and treatment services.
  • Provide income supports for people who are homeless or unstably housed.
  • Provide short-term solutions during the transition to affordable housing.
  • Engage the broader community in solutions.

“The survey provided a wealth of detailed information about what is needed by people in our community who are inadequately housed,” said Community Council Researcher Jane Worton. “It also dispelled some common myths about those who are homeless.”

  • Only 3% of the surveyed population do not want permanent housing.
  • 17% of homeless people have jobs, 32% are engaged in non-traditional work (e.g. “binning”), and 42% want help finding a job or a better job.
  • 78% identified the lack of affordable housing as their main barrier to being housed.
  • Homelessness is not imported: 73% are from the CRD and 16% from elsewhere in BC, mostly Duncan and Vancouver; only 11% are from elsewhere.
  • People are homeless throughout the region: 73% were from the four core municipalities, 4% from the Western Communities, 3% from the Saanich Peninsula, and 4% from Salt Spring; a further 16% did not disclose their municipality.

“All levels of government need to work together, alongside non-profit and private housing providers, to ensure that sufficient affordable housing, and appropriate supports, are available to those in need,” said Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe.

A CRD report released earlier this year showed that by following a housing-first policy, government could save over $9.5 million annually – $12,000 a year for each person who is homeless. Supported housing would also help marginalized citizens integrate better into the community and improve the quality of life for everyone in the region.

“Homelessness is devastating for the homeless and wasteful for society in the added costs it imposes on the health system, police, courts and corrections. It is also harmful to the safety and attractiveness of our communities,” said Saanich Councillor Judy Brownoff. “The Capital Regional District will play its part in helping eliminate homelessness by co-ordinating the efforts of all levels of government, business and the non-profit sector.”

41% of respondents said that having a community outreach worker would help them find and maintain housing. Many require low-barrier housing that emphasizes ease of entry and ongoing support services.

42% of participants would like help finding work. The needed supports they identified include many simple, low-cost supports and services that the community can easily provide:

  • Clothing, transportation (bus or other vehicle), trade tools and resumé assistance (75%).
  • A shower, phone, personal storage and alarm clock (67%).
  • Help to replace lost identification (56%).

Participants looking for work also asked for education and training (60%), accessible health and dental care, better physical and mental health care, and addiction or detox support and transition services (58%).

The top three factors cited by participants as contributing to their inadequate housing were alcohol or drug use (41%), medical problems (35%), and social or emotional challenges (27%). “We are recommending that a wide variety of primary health care and social services be located together in a single building in downtown Victoria,” said Kathy Stinson.

The enumeration numbers have been revised upwards from preliminary estimates after careful review of the data. The Homeless Needs Survey counted 1,242 persons throughout the Capital Region who were homeless or unstably housed. This is an under-reporting of the actual numbers of individuals and families who are inadequately housed.

The full research report is available on www.Coolaid.org in the Homeless Survey newsroom. The Government of Canada has contributed funding to this initiative.

– 30 –

Information :     www.CoolAid.org    (search for Homeless Needs Survey)

Kathy Stinson , Executive Director, Cool Aid, (250) 383-1977

Don McTavish , Manager of Shelters, Cool Aid, (250) 383-1977

Jane Worton, Researcher, Community Council, (250) 383-6166

Mayor Alan Lowe, City of Victoria, (250) 361-0200

Saanich Councillor Judy Brownoff for the Capital Regional District, (250) 727-2008

 

The Executive Summary is below. The full research report “Housing First – Plus Supports” is also available as aWord or Adobe PDF document.


Housing First – Plus Supports

 

Executive Summary

“My story is no different than anybody else’s in this survey.
We are, always have been, and will always be able to love and be loved.”

 “Humans are our best resources. We should take care of them.”

 “We are all people and need to be treated as such.”

       – Survey participants

 

More than 1,242 of our neighbours in the Capital Region are homeless or nearly homeless. Above all, they need more than 1,242 housing units; affordable housing which is able to meet the many housing challenges they face. The homeless and nearly homeless also need more support workers to help them keep their new housing and to provide mental health and addictions care. And they need reliable and realistic income assistance, including help finding work.

  • Affordable housing is needed.
  • Health and housing support workers are needed.
  • Income supports need improvement.

Homelessness and Unstable Housing

The Homeless Needs Survey was a collaborative research project led by the Victoria Cool Aid Society. The question that this survey answers for the Capital Region is: “What housing and supports do people require when they are not housed or are in unstable housing?”

To answer this question an enumeration and a questionnaire survey were conducted from February 5 to 9, 2007, with over 60 social service providers and 220 volunteers participating throughout the Capital Region, from Sooke to Sidney and Salt Spring Island. Over 815 questionnaires were anonymously completed by citizens who were homeless or unstably housed and who felt able to share their personal information.

Homelessness was defined as, “being without a predictable, clean, safe residence to return to whenever one chooses.”

Unstable housing was defined as any of the following:

  • More than half of income is spent on rent.
  • An eviction notice has been issued, and no other housing is available.
  • Housing is overcrowded.
  • Housing does not meet basic health and safety standards.
  • Violence or abuse happens in the home.
  • The resident cannot stay in or return home whenever they choose.

The researchers believe that some subpopulations were under-represented in this survey. Such “undercounts” were more pronounced outside the four core municipalities, youth and children, Aboriginal people, people with mental health issues and families.

 

Survey Summary

The enumeration identified 1,242 persons throughout the Capital Region who were homeless or unstably housed – an undercount.

It is a common myth that many of the people who are homeless choose to be homeless. Our findings show that only a small percent (3%) of the population do not want permanent housing.

Homelessness is a regional problem that impacts more than downtown Victoria. Volunteer s surveyed 815 people and found that 73% were from the four core municipalities, 4% from the Western Communities, 3% from the Saanich Peninsula, and 4% from Salt Spring Island; 16% did not state a municipality.

Contrary to another common myth, homelessness is not imported into the Capital Region. It is a home-grown problem. Only 11% of those surveyed were from outside B.C., with 73% from the CRD, and 16% from elsewhere in B.C., mostly Duncan and Vancouver.

People who are homeless are of all ages. The youngest person interviewed was 14 years old and the oldest was 77. Two-thirds of participants (64%) identified themselves as male, 34% as female and 2% as transgendered or other.

While only 2.8% of the Victoria Census Metropolitan Area’s population are Aboriginal, one in four (25%) of those surveyed identified themselves as Aboriginal, First Nations, Métis, Inuit or Native. A disproportionate number of Aboriginal people are living without homes or are inadequately housed.

People reported that they cycle in and out of homelessness. Over half of the participants have been unstably housed for the last two years or longer, and 44% had been homeless more than twice in the last ten years.

 

Recommendations

More than anything, the Homeless Needs Survey shows that we need to provide more affordable housing options. The survey also points to the need for more health and housing supports, and the need to improve income supports for people who are homeless.

Six basic recommendations emerge:

  • Create a range of affordable housing options.
  • Provide intensive community support for housing.
  • Provide a range of harm reduction and treatment services.
  • Provide income supports for people who are homeless or unstably housed.
  • Provide short-term solutions during the transition to affordable housing.
  • Engage the broader community in solutions.

 

Create a range of affordable housing options.

Of those surveyed, 78% identified the lack of affordable housing as their main barrier to being housed. Our region needs many units of new and repurposed affordable housing, ranging from single rooms to family housing, and with both privately and publicly funded solutions contributing to the mix.

Diverse housing options are required to meet the variety of needs – especially low-barrier housing that emphasizes ease of entry and ongoing support services. Tenants need help to keep their housing. And many require housing that tolerates active addictions and mental health problems:

  • 48% of participants reported active alcohol or drug use.
  • 42% reported mental health issues.
  • 27% reported both alcohol or drug use and mental health issues.

All levels of government need to fund housing and related supports. A collaborative approach is needed, both vertical (all levels of government) and horizontal (across ministries), and including non-profit service providers and the broader community. Such a wide collaboration will ensure comprehensive housing solutions that include both bricks and mortar and adequate housing support services.

By following a housing-first policy, government could save at least $9.5 million taxpayer dollars annually in the Capital Region – $12,000 a year for each person who is homeless. A housing-first policy would improve the quality of life for all residents in the region and would help marginalized citizens better reintegrate into the community (source: Capital Regional District, 2007).

 

Provide intensive community support for housing.

In this survey, 41% of respondents said that having a community outreach worker would help them find and maintain housing. They said that they need advocates, assistance, supported housing, and easily accessed primary health care. A common thread throughout the questionnaires was the importance of community outreach workers to help people find, receive and maintain services, especially mental health and addictions services, as long as they are needed.

Community outreach workers should be in all involved agencies and should work together to ensure a continuous range of support, advocacy and referrals, including while a client’s housing situation is changing (such as after being evicted or released from hospital).

Workers linked in a community-based case management model would make some housing options more feasible (for example, subsidized market rentals). Supports should range from intensive support for mental health and addiction clients, to volunteers or peers who help tenants get to medical appointments and other important meetings. Community outreach workers could also reduce the significant number of incidents of discrimination that participants identified.

 

Provide a range of harm reduction and treatment services.

Health support workers are also needed. The top three factors cited by participants as contributing to their inadequate housing situation were alcohol or drug use (41%), medical problems (35%), and social or emotional challenges (27%). Participants looking for work also asked for education and training (60%), accessible health and dental care, better physical and mental health care, and addiction or detox support and transition services (58%).

Health is a critical component of the solution to the Capital Region’s housing challenge. We recommend that a wide variety of primary health care and social services be located together in a single building in downtown Victoria. The proposed ACCESS Health Centre will greatly improve the availability of addictions counselling, mental health services, and various other supports for the homeless and marginalized. It will help individuals and families stabilize and participate more fully in the wider society.

A community discussion was begun after this survey, involving both people who are homeless and many helping agencies; it is detailed at the end of this report. Their discussion developed more suggestions for ways our community can provide harm reduction and treatment services.

 

Provide income supports for people who are homeless or unstably housed.

People are homeless for a wide variety of reasons – everyone has a different story.

Many of them have jobs (17%), or are engaged in non-traditional work such as binning or squeegeeing (32%), and many more want help to find a job or a better job (42%). Many are unable to work due to physical or mental health challenges, including addictions.

In this survey, 65% of respondents reported receiving provincial government income assistance, including Employment and Income Assistance, Persons with Disability benefits and Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers benefits.

But many also often reported they had been denied income assistance benefits: 41% had been denied Employment and Income Assistance, and 29% had been denied benefits for Persons with Disability or Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers. Of those who had been denied, 80% were still not receiving income assistance and were not formally employed. Instead, they reported surviving by binning, panhandling, illegal activities, under-the-table jobs, sex work, squeegeeing, or with the help of family or friends.

Over two-fifths (42%) of participants want help finding work. The supports they said they need include many simple, low-cost supports and services that the community could easily provide: clothing, transportation, trade tools and resumé assistance; a shower, phone, personal storage and alarm clock; and help replacing lost identification.

The community discussion that followed this survey developed many other suggestions for ways government, businesses and social service agencies can give these people the employment support they need.

 

“I’ve been homeless for five years. At 17, I left home due to family systemic violent abuse.

I’m very willing to work, yet there are so many obstacles currently in my life.”

      – Survey participant

 

Provide short-term solutions during the transition to affordable housing.

Before this report was published, housing stakeholders and people without homes discussed the research project’s findings. They developed several possible short-term solutions that could make life easier for people while they are homeless or unstably housed.

Government and business offices could give these people better access to telephones. The municipalities and community centres could provide more free bathrooms and showers, and even community laundries. More winter night shelters need to be available. And research with homeless families could lead to providing them a proper emergency shelter.

 

Engage the broader community in solutions.

The post-survey community discussion also developed a few suggestions for ways in which individuals in our broader community can get more involved in solutions to homelessness. When teachers notice changes in children caused by housing stresses, for example, the school could offer extra supports to those families.

 

“Crime would likely be a lot less if there was more affordable housing. Drug problems would also be less. Without housing, people are on the street and lose heart and feel there is nothing they can do to change the situation, so go downhill mentally and physically.”

      – Survey participant

Partners with the Homeless Needs Survery

HNS_bannerThe Homeless Needs Survey would never have been possible without the strong assistance of people and organizations throughout the capital region. The Victoria Cool Aid Society would like especially to acknowledge and thank the following funding partners, over 40 social service providers who are enumeration and survey sites, and our incredible, hard-working volunteers and staff. (If we have missed you, our apologies – drop us a line to let us know.)

To learn more about those organizations and individuals who support Cool Aid visit our Partners page .

Major Funding Partners

Anounce Computers and Printers
Cadillac Homes
Canadian Home Builders Association
Capital Iron
Capital Regional District
City of Victoria
COBS Bread
Diamond Communications
District of Metchosin
District of North Saanich
DTI Computers
Fiber Options
Government of Canada
Kiwanis Rose Manor Seniors
The Ladybug Foundation
Leadership Victoria
Moore Paterson Architects
Oak Bay Kiwanis
Old Victoria Water Company
Regent Hotel
Salvation Army
Shaw Cablesystems
Shoppers Drug Mart
Steve Copp Construction
Thrifty Foods
Thrifty Foods James Bay
Times Colonist
Tom Harris Cellular
United Way
Vancity
Victoria Real Estate Board
VIHA – Vancouver Island Health Authority
and others!

Involved Social Service Providers and Agencies

AIDS Vancouver Island
Alano Club
BC Schizophrenia Society
Beacon Community Employment
Beacon Community Services
Beacon Out of the Rain Shelter
Blanshard Community Centre
Bridges for Women
Burnside Gorge Community Association
Central Saanich Police Department
Child and Familly Counselling Association (CAFCA)
Community Council
Cook & Quadra Medical Clinic
Cridge Centre for the Family
Downtown Community Activity Centre (Cool Aid)
Fernwood Community Centre
Hill House
Hulitan Social Services
James Bay Community Project
John Howard Society
Kiwanis Emergency Youth Shelter
Kiwanis House
Margaret Laurence House
Methadone Clinic
Mustard Seed
Native Friendship Centre
Nine-to-Ten Club
Our Place
Pacific Centre
Pacifica Housing
PEERS – Prostitutes Empowerment Education & Resource Society
Phoenix Human Services Association
REES Network – Research, Education, Employment & Support (Cool Aid)
Saanich Police
Saltspring Community Centre
Salvation Army
Sanctuary Youth Centre
Sandy Merriman House (Cool Aid)
Schizophrenia Society
Shoe Box
Sidney Food Bank
Sidney RCMP
Sooke Family Resource Centre
Sooke Transition House
Specialized Youth Detox (Ashgrove)
Spectrum Job Search
St. Saviour’s Anglican Church
St. John the Divine Food Bank
Streetlink Emergency Shelter (Cool Aid)
Threshold Youth Shelter
Umbrella Society for Addictions and Mental Health
Upper Room
Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre
Victoria AIDS Resource and Community Service Society (VARCS)
Victoria Cool Aid Society
Victoria Detox/Sobering and Assessment Centre
Victoria General Hospital
Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre
Victoria Police
Victoria Women’s Transition House
Westshore RCMP
Worklink
Youth Empowerment Society

Other Partners

Bottle Depot
Charlayne Thornton-Joe
Greater Victoria Public Library

Homeless Needs Survey Newsroom

HNS_banner

Homeless Needs Survey – Complete Research Report Issued

News Release – For Immediate Release: April 19, 2007

Victoria – The final research report of the Homeless Needs Survey, “Housing First – Plus Supports”, was released today by the Victoria Cool Aid Society, Community Council, Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe, and Saanich Councillor Judy Brownoff who represented the Capital Regional District.

The purpose of the Homeless Needs Survey (held February 5-9) was to gain a deeper understanding of what people who are homeless or unstably housed feel they need in order to find and maintain housing. Based on the survey of 815 homeless and unstably housed individuals in the Capital Region, from Sooke to Sidney and Salt Spring, the research report makes six basic recommendations:

  • Create a range of affordable housing options in the Capital Region.
  • Provide intensive community support for housing.
  • Provide a range of harm reduction and treatment services.
  • Provide income supports for people who are homeless or unstably housed.
  • Provide short-term solutions during the transition to affordable housing.
  • Engage the broader community in solutions.

Read Full News Release (including Executive Summary)
Full Research Report  (PDF or Word document)
Researcher Summarizes Findings (video)


 

Homeless Needs Survey – Preliminary Enumeration and Survey Results

News Release – For Immediate Release: March 2, 2007

Victoria – The Homeless Needs Survey, which was held from February 5-9, has identified 1,115 persons in the Capital Region who were homeless or unstably housed. [Note: Later revised upwards to 1,242.]

The following table summarizes the enumeration and survey results:

Adults
Youth
(16-25)
Children (<16) Total
Male Female Transgender
Homeless 480 142 2 73 46 743
Unstable Housing 172 133 3 43 21 372
Total 652 275 5 116 67 1,115

Read Full News Release


Community Council Joins Homeless Needs Survey Research Team

News Release – For Immediate Release: January 17, 2006

Victoria – The Victoria Cool Aid Society is pleased to announce a research partnership with the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria. Researcher Jane Worton has joined the team organizing the Homeless Needs Survey to provide guidance and assistance in research design, research implementation, statistical analysis, volunteer training and report writing.

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Homeless Needs Survey 2007

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Cool Aid sponsored the Victoria Homeless Needs Survey, held from Monday, February 5 through Friday, February 9, 2007. The full research report, “Housing First – Plus Supports“, is available online as well as an Executive Summary. Additional informational resources are available such as fact sheets and a presentation.

The objectives of this week-long event included:

  • Determining what it will take to give those who are homeless the services and housing that they need
  • Providing supportive research for effective policy development, service planning and fund development for all participating agencies
  • Raising public and community awareness of homelessness
  • Building upon communication and partnerships between service providers, business and government regarding homelessness
  • Producing a current estimate of how many people are homeless in our region

Enumeration

The Survey was a two-part project that included enumeration and volunteer-conducted questionnaires. The enumeration occurred on Monday, February 5, 2007. Facilities and agencies tallied homeless families and individuals who were either sheltered or otherwise served. The enumeration of individuals in shelters, institutions, motels and other locations was based on their nighttime occupancy on February 5, 2007.

Questionnaires

Brief (approximately 15-30 minutes) survey questionnaires and interviews consisted of an invitation to people who were homeless to identify themselves at about 50 survey locations throughout the Capital Region. These access points included approximately 40 service providers (e.g. food banks) and outdoor locations using the Salvation Army’s Beacon Bus. A short questionnaire provided an opportunity to connect with this population and gain insight into how many people are currently experiencing homelessness and the obstacles they face which prevent them from finding permanent housing. In addition to conducting these questionnaires, volunteers distributed supplies and food to those in need who visited the access points.

Volunteer Survey Teams

Volunteers were organized into teams which included two or more members:

    1. Surveyor: A homeless-experienced volunteer (referred by a service provider) and/or another community volunteer usually conducted the survey with persons who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. (Some who were surveyed elected to fill out the survey themselves.)
    2. Team Leader: survey teams had a third member, a professional who works with people who are homeless, who helped out and was responsible for the team’s safety, assisting with any challenging situations that arose.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still got questions? Check out our comprehensive online FAQ.


Contact Cool Aid

The Homeless Needs Survey 2007 has been completed. If you are interested in volunteering with Cool Aid on another project please visit the volunteer page.

Contact Alan Rycroft for more information about volunteering or about the Homeless Needs Survey.

Homeless Needs Survey Research and Resources

Research

The Executive Summary of the research report is reproduced below. The full research report “Housing First – Plus Supports ” is available as a Word or Adobe PDF document.

The survey questionnaire completed by homeless and unstably housed persons from February 6-9, 2007 is available online as a Word document.

Posters, Flyers and Schedule

Click on the recommendations and myths poster at the right to get a full version (1.5 Mb PDF). Digital copies of the organizing poster, flyer and schedule can be found below the Executive Summary.

PowerPoint Presentation

presentation summarizing the Homeless Needs Survey findings including common myths and the survey recommendations. Available in both print and PowerPoint formats (1.5 Mb each).

Fact Sheets

A series of seven facts sheets have been prepared summarizing the Homeless Needs Survey results:

  1. Quick Facts and Figures
  2. Quick Health Facts
  3. Housing Solutions
  4. Quick Youth and Families Facts
  5. Quick Aboriginal Facts
  6. Quick “Myths and Realities”
  7. Quick Summary

Executive Summary – Housing First – Plus Supports

“My story is no different than anybody else’s in this survey. We are, always have been, and will always be able to love and be loved.”

“Humans are our best resources. We should take care of them.”

“We are all people and need to be treated as such.” 

– Survey participants

More than 1,242 of our neighbours in the Capital Region are homeless or nearly homeless. Above all, they need more than 1,242 housing units; affordable housing which is able to meet the many housing challenges they face. The homeless and nearly homeless also need more support workers to help them keep their new housing and to provide mental health and addictions care. And they need reliable and realistic income assistance, including help finding work.

  • Affordable housing is needed.
  • Health and housing support workers are needed.
  • Income supports need improvement.

 

Homelessness and Unstable Housing

The Homeless Needs Survey was a collaborative research project led by the Victoria Cool Aid Society. The question that this survey answers for the Capital Region is: “What housing and supports do people require when they are not housed or are in unstable housing?”

To answer this question an enumeration and a questionnaire survey were conducted from February 5 to 9, 2007, with over 60 social service providers and 220 volunteers participating throughout the Capital Region, from Sooke to Sidney and Salt Spring Island. Over 815 questionnaires were anonymously completed by citizens who were homeless or unstably housed and who felt able to share their personal information.

Homelessness was defined as, “being without a predictable, clean, safe residence to return to whenever one chooses.”

  • Unstable housing was defined as any of the following:
  • More than half of income is spent on rent.
  • An eviction notice has been issued, and no other housing is available.
  • Housing is overcrowded.
  • Housing does not meet basic health and safety standards.
  • Violence or abuse happens in the home.
  • The resident cannot stay in or return home whenever they choose.

The researchers believe that some subpopulations were under-represented in this survey. Such “undercounts” were more pronounced outside the four core municipalities, youth and children, Aboriginal people, people with mental health issues and families.

Survey Summary

The enumeration identified 1,242 persons throughout the Capital Region who were homeless or unstably housed – an undercount.

It is a common myth that many of the people who are homeless choose to be homeless. Our findings show that only a small percent (3%) of the population do not want permanent housing.

Homelessness is a regional problem that impacts more than downtown Victoria. Volunteer s surveyed 815 people and found that 73% were from the four core municipalities, 4% from the Western Communities, 3% from the Saanich Peninsula, and 4% from Salt Spring Island; 16% did not state a municipality.

Contrary to another common myth, homelessness is not imported into the Capital Region. It is a home-grown problem. Only 11% of those surveyed were from outside B.C., with 73% from the CRD, and 16% from elsewhere in B.C., mostly Duncan and Vancouver.

People who are homeless are of all ages. The youngest person interviewed was 14 years old and the oldest was 77. Two-thirds of participants (64%) identified themselves as male, 34% as female and 2% as transgendered or other.

While only 2.8% of the Victoria Census Metropolitan Area’s population are Aboriginal, one in four (25%) of those surveyed identified themselves as Aboriginal, First Nations, Métis, Inuit or Native. A disproportionate number of Aboriginal people are living without homes or are inadequately housed.

People reported that they cycle in and out of homelessness. Over half of the participants have been unstably housed for the last two years or longer, and 44% had been homeless more than twice in the last ten years.

Recommendations

More than anything, the Homeless Needs Survey shows that we need to provide more affordable housing options. The survey also points to the need for more health and housing supports, and the need to improve income supports for people who are homeless.

Six basic recommendations emerge:

  1. Create a range of affordable housing options.
  2. Provide intensive community support for housing.
  3. Provide a range of harm reduction and treatment services.
  4. Provide income supports for people who are homeless or unstably housed.
  5. Provide short-term solutions during the transition to affordable housing.
  6. Engage the broader community in solutions.

Create a range of affordable housing options.

Of those surveyed, 78% identified the lack of affordable housing as their main barrier to being housed. Our region needs many units of new and repurposed affordable housing, ranging from single rooms to family housing, and with both privately and publicly funded solutions contributing to the mix.

Diverse housing options are required to meet the variety of needs – especially low-barrier housing that emphasizes ease of entry and ongoing support services. Tenants need help to keep their housing. And many require housing that tolerates active addictions and mental health problems:

  • 48% of participants reported active alcohol or drug use.
  • 42% reported mental health issues.
  • 27% reported both alcohol or drug use and mental health issues.

All levels of government need to fund housing and related supports. A collaborative approach is needed, both vertical (all levels of government) and horizontal (across ministries), and including non-profit service providers and the broader community. Such a wide collaboration will ensure comprehensive housing solutions that include both bricks and mortar and adequate housing support services.

By following a housing-first policy, government could save at least $9.5 million taxpayer dollars annually in the Capital Region – $12,000 a year for each person who is homeless. A housing-first policy would improve the quality of life for all residents in the region and would help marginalized citizens better reintegrate into the community (source: Capital Regional District, 2007).

Provide intensive community support for housing.

In this survey, 41% of respondents said that having a community outreach worker would help them find and maintain housing. They said that they need advocates, assistance, supported housing, and easily accessed primary health care. A common thread throughout the questionnaires was the importance of community outreach workers to help people find, receive and maintain services, especially mental health and addictions services, as long as they are needed.

Community outreach workers should be in all involved agencies and should work together to ensure a continuous range of support, advocacy and referrals, including while a client’s housing situation is changing (such as after being evicted or released from hospital).

Workers linked in a community-based case management model would make some housing options more feasible (for example, subsidized market rentals). Supports should range from intensive support for mental health and addiction clients, to volunteers or peers who help tenants get to medical appointments and other important meetings. Community outreach workers could also reduce the significant number of incidents of discrimination that participants identified.

Provide a range of harm reduction and treatment services.

Health support workers are also needed. The top three factors cited by participants as contributing to their inadequate housing situation were alcohol or drug use (41%), medical problems (35%), and social or emotional challenges (27%). Participants looking for work also asked for education and training (60%), accessible health and dental care, better physical and mental health care, and addiction or detox support and transition services (58%).

Health is a critical component of the solution to the Capital Region’s housing challenge. We recommend that a wide variety of primary health care and social services be located together in a single building in downtown Victoria. The proposed ACCESS Health Centre will greatly improve the availability of addictions counselling, mental health services, and various other supports for the homeless and marginalized. It will help individuals and families stabilize and participate more fully in the wider society.

A community discussion was begun after this survey, involving both people who are homeless and many helping agencies; it is detailed at the end of this report. Their discussion developed more suggestions for ways our community can provide harm reduction and treatment services.

Provide income supports for people who are homeless or unstably housed.

People are homeless for a wide variety of reasons – everyone has a different story.

Many of them have jobs (17%), or are engaged in non-traditional work such as binning or squeegeeing (32%), and many more want help to find a job or a better job (42%). Many are unable to work due to physical or mental health challenges, including addictions.

In this survey, 65% of respondents reported receiving provincial government income assistance, including Employment and Income Assistance, Persons with Disability benefits and Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers benefits.

But many also often reported they had been denied income assistance benefits: 41% had been denied Employment and Income Assistance, and 29% had been denied benefits for Persons with Disability or Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers. Of those who had been denied, 80% were still not receiving income assistance and were not formally employed. Instead, they reported surviving by binning, panhandling, illegal activities, under-the-table jobs, sex work, squeegeeing, or with the help of family or friends.

Over two-fifths (42%) of participants want help finding work. The supports they said they need include many simple, low-cost supports and services that the community could easily provide: clothing, transportation, trade tools and resumé assistance; a shower, phone, personal storage and alarm clock; and help replacing lost identification.

The community discussion that followed this survey developed many other suggestions for ways government, businesses and social service agencies can give these people the employment support they need.

“I’ve been homeless for five years. At 17, I left home due to family systemic violent abuse. I’m very willing to work, yet there are so many obstacles currently in my life.” 

– Survey participant

Provide short-term solutions during the transition to affordable housing.

Before this report was published, housing stakeholders and people without homes discussed the research project’s findings. They developed several possible short-term solutions that could make life easier for people while they are homeless or unstably housed.

Government and business offices could give these people better access to telephones. The municipalities and community centres could provide more free bathrooms and showers, and even community laundries. More winter night shelters need to be available. And research with homeless families could lead to providing them a proper emergency shelter.

Engage the broader community in solutions.

The post-survey community discussion also developed a few suggestions for ways in which individuals in our broader community can get more involved in solutions to homelessness. When teachers notice changes in children caused by housing stresses, for example, the school could offer extra supports to those families.

“Crime would likely be a lot less if there was more affordable housing. Drug problems would also be less. Without housing, people are on the street and lose heart and feel there is nothing they can do to change the situation, so go downhill mentally and physically.” 

– Survey participant

Posters, Flyers and Schedule – Homeless Needs Survey

Homeless Needs Survey promotional poster

The Homeless Needs Survey has a poster and flyer that can be used to tell people about the event.

Agencies 

If you are an agency please click on the poster image at the right to pick up a Homeless Needs Survey poster in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format. It is very large (about 7 Mb) and may take a while to download.

We would appreciate your displaying it prominently at any site where the survey is taking place or in the immediate vicinity. It can be printed on 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17 paper.

Please customize the poster by printing on the name of your agency above the dates, and adding below the hours (time) that the surveys will be taking place at your location. (See the schedule below.) If you have any questions please call 414-4781 or email Cool Aid .

Members of the Public 

If you are not a social service provider participating in the Homeless Needs Survey but would like to put up the poster somewhere else please use this more generic posterinstead.

Flyer

Promotional flyer for Homeless Needs SurveyThe Homeless Needs Survey team has also created a flyer which can be handed out to people who are homeless, or folks who are living in unstable housing situations. Click on the flyer at the left to download a copy.

On the back of the flyer is a copy of the schedule where people can take the survey. The schedule is also reproduced below for your information.

8,000 Pairs of Socks Donated to Capital Region’s Homeless

Victoria – The Victoria Cool Aid Society and Congregation Emanu-El are pleased to announce that 8,000 quality pairs of socks worth $40,000 have been donated by McGregor Socks (Toronto) to people in the Capital Region who are homeless and poor. The media are invited to a news conference to learn about socks and health and view the distribution of socks to local social service providers. The news conference is Wednesday, September 19, at 10 am at the Streetlink emergency shelter, 1634 Store Street (entrance on Wharf Street).

“Of all the gifts we receive, the importance of socks cannot be overemphasized,” said Rev. Al Tysick of Our Place. “A gift of socks is a gift of health for our neighbours who are homeless.”

“The parts of the body that suffer the most among people who are homeless are their feet,” said Don McTavish, Cool Aid’s manager of shelters. “Twice now Congregation Emanu-El and McGregor Socks have stepped up with a very generous contribution of thousands of badly needed socks for people who are homeless. This year, we are delighted to share those socks with 15 different social service providers who will put them into the hands of those who need them most this fall and winter.”

The socks are currently stored in the basement of Streetlink shelter taking up “about a cord and a half” of room. There will be an opportunity for the media to photograph the 8,000 pairs of socks as some of them are removed for delivery to caring agencies.

Faith plays a key role in the involvement of Synagogue members in social action explained Rabbi Harry Brechner. “The Torah says that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. I want to wake up in a warm bed. I want warm socks on my feet. And I want these simple things for my neighbours as well.”

“People who are homeless often have traumatized feet and good socks are essential to their health,” said Anne Drost, a nurse with Cool Aid’s Community Health Centre. “A good pair of socks provides warmth and helps prevent fungal foot infections and prevent blisters, or is part of the treatment plan for these ailments.” Nice, warm socks are critical during Victoria’s cold and wet winter season and always in short supply.

“Homelessness is everyone’s responsibility,” said Michael Bloomfield of Avodah, the Synagogue’s social action group. “When I realized the desperate need for socks I asked McGregor Industries for help. I was thrilled by their generous response to our call for socks for homeless people in our community.” When Michael Bloomfield arranged the first gift of 7,000 socks from McGregor two years ago, he mentioned the high cost of shipping to Susan Knowler of RBC Dominion Securities who offered to pay for shipping the next donation of socks. She, along with Paul Hawken, who spoke in June at a Victoria conference on sustainable community development, generously paid for the large shipment to the Streetlink emergency shelter.

“Our mission has always been to create products that ‘bring comfort to body and soul’,” said Rick Hastings of McGregor Socks. “Partnering with these social service agencies in the Capital Region will allow us to extend that comfort to thousands of our neighbours who need a little comfort. The same spirit that has helped us grow this organization as a family-managed business over the past 80 years will continue to drive us in a partnership that I know will be strong and enduring.”

Victoria Cool Aid Society provides primary health care services, supported housing, emergency shelter, life skills training and job placements to marginalized adults in the Victoria area, in a non-judgemental way. For more information visit www.CoolAid.org or call 383-1977.

Congregation Emanu-El is Canada’s oldest synagogue, originally built in 1863, and in continuous use since that time. Avodah is Congregation Emanu-El’s social action group. Ongoing projects include preparing hot meals, collecting socks and food, and supporting local organizations dedicated to serving those most in need in our city, particularly homeless youth and adults.

McGregor Socks is a subsidiary of McGregor Industries Toronto, Canada. McGregor was founded in 1928 by the Lipson family and today is still led by 3rd generation family members. The companies’ major source of revenue is from the development and marketing of better Men’s and Women’s socks and this specialization allows the company to maintain a high level of expertise and leadership in this market. Head office/showrooms are located in Toronto, New York and London. The company distributes a wide range of Licensed, National Brands and Private Label products through an extensive International sales network. Its customer base includes 10,000 points of sale within better department, specialty, discount and chain store retailers in over 30 countries.

– 30 –

Information:    www.CoolAid.org     www.congregation-emanu-el.org

Don McTavish, Manager of Shelters, Cool Aid, (250) 383-1977
Anne Drost, Nurse, Cool Aid, (250) 383-1977
Rabbi Harry Brechner, Congregation Emanu-El, (250) 382-0615
Michael Bloomfield, Avodah, Congregation Emanu-El, (250) 380-3001
Rick Hastings, McGregor Socks, (604) 417-1226


Socks and Health Facts

  • When you do not have a home you spend a significant amount of your time standing and waiting in lines. It is hard to keep your feet warm and dry and your feet suffer a lot of abuse – moreso than other parts of your body.
  • Good clean socks help prevent both fungal infections and blisters.
  • Prevention of blisters prevents secondary foot infections that require antibiotic treatment.
  • A patient with a foot fungal infection is encouraged to change into clean socks frequently.
  • Good socks are more important for those who suffer with neuropathy in their feet, like diabetics and those with AIDS neuropathy, as they have reduced sensation and cannot feel when they are developing sores and blisters.

Publications, Research and Information

Community-Based Health Research

More Research


Latest Cool Aid Research: Equity-Based Hepatitis C Treatment

Abstract – Background

Knowledge is increasing regarding effective models of Hepatitis C (HCV) care for people who inject drugs (PWID). However, examples implementing such models in primary care are lacking, leaving a gap in our applied understanding of how practically we best scale-up such care: this is critical and urgent if the benefits of treatment advances are to be realized for PWID.

Full report available online until November 8, 2015.

Cool Aid HCV Research Poster A case study

The Cool Aid Community Health Centre (CHC) provides HCV programming for PWID, putting recent advances into practice. A case study of the CHC’s HCV programming describes the practice experience and outcomes of its novel, multidisciplinary, primary care, inner-city HCV treatment program for PWID. This paper describes how this model of care functions to address the many barriers to treatment and successfully facilitate adherence to treatment.

Conclusion

Medical advances for HCV will be ineffectual without effective management of complex barriers to care related to substance use, mental health, trauma, poverty, homelessness, criminalization, cultural issues, stigma and marginalization. HCV treatment for PWIDs benefits from low-threshold settings which are culturally appropriate and where trusting relationships between clients and providers are nurtured. Public investment in primary care treatment for PWID living with HCV, including investments in supports that address the social barriers faced by these vulnerable populations would build on existing evidence and improve HCV outcomes for PWID.

Keywords

Hepatitis C, HCV, Drug use, PWID, Community Health Centre, Primary care, Health

Authors

Rozalyn Milne, Dr. Morgan Price, Bruce Wallace, Anne Drost, Irene Haigh-Gidora, Dr. Frank A. Nezil, Dr. Chris Fraser

Report Details

Article title: From principles to practice: Description of a novel equity-based HCV primary care treatment model for PWID
Reference: DRUPOL1608
Journal title: International Journal of Drug Policy
First author: Rozalyn Milne
Final version published online: 19-SEP-2015
Full bibliographic details: International Journal of Drug Policy 26 (2015), pp. 1020-1027 DOI information: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.07.009
Available online until Nov. 8, 2015: www.ijdp.org/article/S0955-3959%2815%2900210-8/fulltext

Research at Cool Aid Community Health Centre

Since 1999, the Victoria Cool Aid Society has been engaged in community-based research to improve access to dental care for people living on low incomes. The research has included many collaborators but with the consistent lead of principal investigator Bruce Wallace.

Initial research sought to raise awareness of the financial barriers to accessing dental care and possible responses. The report Brushed Aside: Poverty and Dental Care in Victoria (2000) was utilized by a Steering Group as evidence of the need and local strategies in providing care. The next report, Towards a Downtown Community Dental Clinic in Victoria (2001) presented a proposed model for a reduced-fee dental clinic for downtown Victoria, British Columbia. This report provided new research from key stakeholder interviews, a literature review, and a review of existing clinics in the province.

In 2002, a Community Dental Clinic was developed as part of the Victoria Cool Aid Society’s Community Health Centre. With the support of solid partnerships, and three years of evidence from the community-action research processes, the Community Health Centre was able to secure an annual subsidy from the Vancouver Island Health Authority to support the ongoing operations of the clinic.

Research has continued since that time to learn how to improve dental services in the province.

Publications are available below.


Improving Access to Dental Services for Low-Income Adults in BC

Throughout British Columbia people are responding to this public health need primarily by creating community-based dental care programs. The research informs community-based responses and government policies to effectively reduce oral health disparities in BC by reducing the financial barriers for adults’ accessing dental care. Findings are used to inform a coordinated, evidence-based strategy that ensures best clinical practices while improving access for the most economically vulnerable citizens.

Cool Aid is the lead on these collaborative research projects, in partnership with the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG), and with government (BC Ministry of Health) and academic (Universty of British Columbia Faculty of Dentistry) researchers.

The Victoria Cool Aid Society’s Community Health Services and the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG) collaborated on action research projects in 2000 and 2001 – research that effectively defined the needs, outlined a feasible response, and ultimately informed the ongoing funding of the Cool Aid Dental Clinic. While the dental clinic helps hundreds of local residents who would otherwise not access dental care, Cool Aid’s continued research can support the development of best practices – both sustainable treatment options such as the clinic and also informing public health policy.

In 2008, Cool Aid and VIPIRG applied for and received funding to undertake research with the overall goal of improving access to dental services for low-income adults in BC. A research report was produced that describes the growth of community-based dental care programs in BC (such as the Cool Aid Dental Clinic) and which sought to better understand the possibilities and limits of community-based responses to provincial oral health disparities. The research found that there exists little data on communities’ oral health needs, no evaluations of existing community-based responses, and overall, a growth-without-planning situation rather than a comprehensive, systematic, and sustainable response to oral health care needs across the province.

In 2009, a research report was completed that surveyed dental provincial services for low-income British Columbians to learn about barriers to oral health care in the province.


Research Publications


Access to Dental Care for Low-income Residents of Campbell-River and Courtenay-Comox (2010)

The objective of this research was to investigate access to dental care issues and possible barriers for low-income adults in the North Vancouver Island communities of Campbell River and Courtenay-Comox. Cool Aid is proud to be a host site for this report that was produced by Bruce Wallace with funding from the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) and supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grant held by the UBC Faculty of Dentistry.

Through 60 interviews this research project explores the experiences and perspectives of low income people, local dentists and health and social service providers. Overall, the research heard from both dentists and low-income patients that the current service delivery model and payment options are not working well for either party and that while respondents overwhelmingly consider affordability (financial access) to be the predominant barrier to accessing care, the related issues of availability (physical access) and acceptability (cultural access) must also be addressed if access is to be improved. The findings from these North Vancouver Island communities are not unique to evidence from throughout British Columbia and elsewhere. Rather, the research provides a local example of the oral health inequities known to prevail in Canada. However, while the needs in Campbell River and Courtenay-Comox may reflect the inequities found elsewhere, there are few or no local resources for people who seek dental care but are unable to afford or access treatment.

A Case Study of Five Community Dental Clinics in British Columbia (2009)

This report provides evidence collected from a case study of five community-based dental clinics providing dental care to communities facing financial and other barriers to oral health care in BC. Building on our previous research, the findings form part of a larger research project regarding strategies to reduce oral health care disparities in BC. A principal mandate of community dental clinics is to ensure access for vulnerable populations, and community dental clinics often have difficulty providing care at the reduced fees paid for patients on welfare and other government benefit programs. The objective of this study was to collect information on five community dental clinics in BC that provide dental services to economically disadvantaged communities to determine how their operations might be sustained.

Improving Access to Dental Services for Low-Income Adults in BC (2008)

This study examines the ways communities throughout British Columbia are trying to improve access to dental services for low-income adults. The community projects surveyed help thousands of British Columbians who otherwise could not access dental care, and found that they are inadequate to solve the dental access problem in BC. A coordinated, evidence-based strategy that recognizes the diverse needs of individuals and communities, and ensures best clinical practices, while improving access for the most economically vulnerable citizens would be prudent, considering the current growth-without-planning situation in the province.

Towards a Downtown Community Dental Clinic in Victoria (2001)

This report is a call to action. Information is presented from over a dozen key informant interviews as well as relevant literature and an inventory of existing dental clinics in British Columbia. A proposal for a downtown dental clinic in Victoria BC is outlined based on the consultations with stakeholders and review of existing clinics.

Brushed Aside: Poverty and Dental Care in Victoria (2000)

This exploratory, action-research project by the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG) clearly documents how poverty is preventing people from obtaining necessary dental care. The report presents findings based on a survey of 150 people living on low incomes in Victoria BC. The many quotes from the surveys tell how untreated dental problems become increasingly painful and how what starts as a small toothache becomes a barrier to employment and affects one’s overall health and well-being. A recommended local response is the development of a reduced-fee dental clinic in Victoria to fill the immediate needs, while other recommendations seek larger policy changes.