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A Journey With John McLernon

STH-Webmaster   |   August 7, 2020

"Streetohome’s success relies on three key things: finding promising models from other jurisdictions; adapting them to fill gaps in Vancouver’s Homelessness Services System; and demonstrating that such enhancements contribute to the robustness of supports and improve outcomes for vulnerable individuals and communities. Our donors count on this kaleidoscope of constant change,” says Streetohome Foundation Board Chair, John McLernon.

“It’s important to workshop different models and invite a thinktank of varied expertise, including those with lived experience, to poke holes and suggest how any given model can be adapted and improved,” says John. “These individuals need to be able to take in a lot of information with an open mind and be prepared to test different ways to help. You also need a good team that can move quickly and change directions, and a board that supports continuous learning and a constantly improving landscape of supports.”

With his ability to bring people of varying perspectives together and have them work cohesively as a team, John was recruited to lead the Vancouver Foundation’s work with youth homelessness. As the Vancouver Foundation further explored homelessness, they incubated Streetohome Foundation, a private-public organization model, and asked John to become Founding Chair and pull together a strong board to govern the new organization.

“We took the time to understand everyone’s line of thinking and created a 10-year strategy,” says John. “But we wanted to be known as doers, not just planners, and so we started providing capital for a few fast, smart projects from the get-go. People could see we were putting our money where our mouth was – supportive housing projects were going up and getting done.”

Since 2008, Streetohome has brokered and leveraged 24 buildings that have provided almost 1400 homes, helping approximately 2046 individuals experiencing homelessness or at-risk of homelessness. In 2015, we shifted our focus to developing a comprehensive approach to homelessness prevention and, with 11 projects to date, have contributed to the housing stability of an additional 2361 vulnerable individuals – a greater impact than we have had through building housing.

“While both strategies are value-add, it has become clear we needed to better understand the root causes of homelessness and where these individuals wanted to go with their lives,” says John. “This could include a variety of goals such as resolving legal issues, getting vocational training, moving on from supportive to independent housing, addressing their substance use, seeking employment or returning to a home community.”

“We’re not afraid to say that we are not only about supportive housing. Our main game is to broker and leverage enhanced supports that help individuals move along their preferred life path and towards the degree of self-sufficiency they are comfortable with. The homelessness initiatives underway are making a difference in peoples’ lives and ensuring that increasingly, more individuals are able to leave homelessness behind them.”