N.W.T. releases draft of long-awaited homelessness strategy
Almost five years after it was first announced, the Northwest Territories government has published the first draft of its strategy to address homelessness.
First publicized in 2018, the N.W.T.'s homelessness strategic plan was intended as a joint project between several GNWT departments, with Housing N.W.T. taking the lead.
On Thursday, Premier Caroline Cochrane tabled the draft strategy in the legislature having ultimately taken the lead on its development.
"This draft strategy sets out key areas of action to help N.W.T. residents find and maintain housing stability," reads a letter from Cochrane included in the draft document. "We look forward to receiving further input on this draft and finalizing a strategy that reflects shared solutions to address homelessness for the people of the Northwest Territories."
The 45-page document sets out nine goals and a series expected outcomes over the next two years.
The overarching goal is to achieve "functional zero," an increasingly popular term among non-profits and policymakers, describing an environment in which some people still find themselves homeless but with resources to help them and no chronic cases of homelessness.
Chronic homelessness, the focus of the report, is caused by social issues ranging from colonialism, racism, trauma and a lack of affordable housing to addictions and inadequate access to education and healthcare.
Strategies to address these issues include improving data collection around homelessness, increasing the territory's stock of affordable housing, and offering more transitional and supportive housing options.
The strategy also highlights bureaucratic barriers N.W.T. residents face when trying to access public housing or other supports, and how integration of services and collaboration between government departments can help.
In previous discussions of the anticipated strategy, Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland said she hoped to see a specific blueprint for information management between departments. That kind of item is not yet developed in detail in the strategy, though the document does acknowledge the need for increased data collection and information sharing.
But Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson told Cabin Radio on Thursday he was pleased with the draft.
"This is the first time the GNWT has acknowledged that functional zero is possible and the goal," said Johnson, explaining that the targets outlined in the report feel achievable.
"Plus we added $2 million to kick it off," he added, referring to a pledge this week by finance minister Caroline Wawzonek to find more funding that supports the strategy.
The territory is now soliciting feedback online until April 30, with an aim to release the final report by June.
Caitrin Pilkington, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio