Toque Tuesday (February 7) Supports Invisible Homeless

Written by Posted On Monday, 30 January 2006 16:00

February 7, 2006 is the day Canada's housed can make an important point about housing and help invisible homeless Canadians receive the attention they need–by merely buying a toque.

Raising the Roof , Canada's national homelessness charity, asks Canadians to pay C$10 for a "Raising the Roof" toque and join the campaign towards a fully-housed Canada. Attention-getting activities on Toque Tuesday help bring homelessness into the spotlight. Toque sales are coupled with high-profile fund-raising comedy galas, which run February through April in Toronto and Halifax. Proceeds support the charity's 47 local partner agencies across Canada that provide direct services to homeless men, women and children within their communities.

This annual campaign continues to raise the profile of Canada's homeless by reminding everyone that the homeless who live on the street, in parks and in public places represent only 20 per cent of those struggling without the security of a permanent home. Raising the Roof has had the support of the federal government through the Minister responsible for the Government of Canada's National Homelessness Initiative.

The only common denominator for Canada's widely-diverse hidden 80 per cent of homeless individuals is their lack of a home:

  • They are youth, adults, families and seniors who temporarily move in with friends or relatives while they search for affordable housing.

  • They are adults and families who live in cars and abandoned buildings in cities and on farms, or who sleep in church basements for the winter.

  • They are women who accept housing from a man, even in dangerous situations, rather than freeze on the street.

  • They are retirees on fixed incomes and the working poor who are vulnerable to increasing rents, utilities and taxes.

  • They are children who are placed in the care of Children's Aid Societies, because their parents can't afford to care for them.

  • They are those who are under-housed, improperly housed or on the verge of eviction in every community in Canada.

(One in seven users of homeless shelters is a child.)

During its 9 year history, Raising The Roof has distributed more than C$1.5 million to 93 Canadian community agencies working to alleviate homelessness. This charity has secured in excess of C$4 million in free media time and professional expertise for hard-hitting national and local public education and media campaigns to attack myths about homelessness and challenge the misconception that nothing can be done.

Toques are just the tip of the iceberg for Raising The Roof's efforts to reverse and prevent homelessness. Its Shared Learnings initiative provides practical tools, resources and information-sharing for frontline staff, managers and volunteers through an interactive website hub. The Youth Engagement Program features an educational resource for teachers and students entitled, "No Place Like Home."

In acknowledgment of the fact that eradicating homelessness involves much more than putting a roof over someone's head, Raising the Roof recently launched its latest initiative -- Youth Works -- because up to one third of Canada's homeless are youths aged 16 to 24. In Toronto alone, roughly 10,000 different youth are homeless at some point in a year, with estimates that between 1,500 and 2,000 are homeless on any given night. Youth Works is a C$1.2 million, three-year program to combat youth homelessness across Canada by examining root causes, effective reintegration approaches and practical solutions that can be easily and cost-effectively replicated.

In its search for answers and strategies, the national charity has already raised $540,000 towards the Youth Works study and support of three exemplary community agencies which, although successful on an individual level, will still reach only 500 of the thousands of high-risk young homeless across Canada:

  • Eva's Phoenix in Toronto, Ontario, is a transitional housing and training facility offering innovative education, employment and mentorship programs to help homeless youth achieve sustainable employment and gain housing.

  • The Back Door in Calgary, Alberta, is an innovative program for street youth where participants work with community volunteers to develop step-by-step personal contracts to improve their lives, get off the street and become self-sufficient.

  • Choices for Youth is a community agency providing supportive housing and related services for 45 homeless youth in downtown St. John's, Newfoundland.

Each agency will receive $100,000 annually for three years to enhance its programs on self-sufficiency and independent living. Youth Works will monitor the effectiveness of these programs, share results with other agencies and engage the corporate and government sectors in policies and programs relevant to homeless youth.

Want to help on Toque Tuesday? Want to start a local project like a rent bank to assist low-income families? Raising the Roof is the place to start on the road to a fully-housed Canada.

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