In marking National Housing Day this November 22, we pause to reflect on the challenges too many Canadians face in finding a safe and affordable place to call home. Today in our country, 3.3 million of us cannot access the housing we need at a cost we can afford. An estimated 235,000 people experience homelessness each year.

In communities across Canada, United Way not only supports immediate housing needs, but also works with community partners to alleviate homelessness and address the affordable housing shortage. Our investment of over $24.6 million each year in community-level housing initiatives is aimed at improving lives locally. For example:

  • United Way Halifax is a key player in the city’s Housing and Homelessness Partnership, a collaboration of nine partners from all three levels of government, the private sector, and the non-profit community.
  • In Kingston, United Way is leading efforts to end youth homelessness, keeping young people off the streets and helping them build a better future.

  • United Way Saskatoon & Area’s Journey Home Housing First program is giving the chronically homeless a place to call home while they receive support to address other needs such as mental health and addiction.

Building on these local efforts, United Way is also contributing its voice to developing a national approach to housing affordability. Shortly after the October 2015 election, the federal government announced its commitment to creating a National Housing Strategy. In response to this opportunity, United Way convened stakeholders from across the housing system – public, private and non-profit – to help shape the development of this new policy.

By working together, the National Housing Collaborative developed innovative, evidence-based solutions to Canada’s housing challenges. The recommendations outlined in the NHC’s New housing affordability agenda for Canada would eliminate homelessness and transform our system to ensure families in need have housing they can afford.

In parallel, United Way partnered with the Maytree Foundation and the Lived Experience Advisory Council to engage people who have experienced homelessness and other housing challenges. Their voices must be included as we move forward. The resulting report, What We Heard – Community Conversations, will also serve as a key piece of input to the government’s work.

Together, we are working to ensure that everyone has access to a safe and affordable place to call home. Housing is central to strong, healthy communities and it is time for real innovation in housing affordability. This National Housing Day, check out key recommendations from the National Housing Collaborative and lend your voice to moving forward on a National Housing Strategy.

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Learn more about United Way’s work in your community, or donate to help improve lives locally.