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How did AHAN get started?
On National Housing Strategy Day in November 2002, community members resolved that a coordinated community response to homelessness and the need for affordable housing was needed. The newly formed Housing Working Group (HWG) met to figure out how to help the community move forward on this complex issue of homelessness. The formation of the HWG reflected a unique and ground-breaking partnership between very diverse organizations who developed new ways of working together. The legal clinic was one of the original partners along with the Three Oaks women's shelter, Youth Hab Quinte and the Hastings County Social Services Department.
The HWG met at least monthly for more than a year to lay the groundwork for an innovative, creative and groundbreaking collaborative participatory action research project in Hastings County. This project was called the ‘Hastings County Affordable Housing Research Project.
What was the Affordable Housing Research Project?
The Research Project provided an exceptional opportunity to identify the needs and causes of homelessness and understand the “face of homelessness” in small urban and rural communities. In addition to exploring the needs and difficulties of people who met the traditional definition of being homeless, the research process ensured that we learned more about people who were ‘precariously housed’ and at risk of losing their homes. We wanted to both gather information that could assist in prevention and build community capacity to respond appropriately and creatively to the challenges presented.
What did the researchers find out about local homelessness?
The survey results provided compelling evidence of the extent of the homelessness and affordable housing crisis in Hastings County. The amount of “invisible” homelessness (persons who have no place of their own but are not staying on the streets or in a shelter) in Hastings County, was startling. More than 100 respondents, representing almost 300 persons, self-identified as homeless and 51% of those respondents further reported that there were other times in the past when they did not have a place of their own. Among the housed, one-third of respondents, 239 households, reported that during the past 3 years they needed to stay with friends, family or in a shelter because they had no home of their own.
The Report "Boxed In: The Affordable Housing Crisis in Hastings County" released in April 2005 provided detailed community, demographic and survey information. The researchers in collaboration with the HWG, following community forums and consultations developed an Action Plan to inform the community's future work around homelessness.
The AHAN now carries forward the Action Plan through it's Task Forces and committees.