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Renewing our commitment to changing lives and building better futures

STH-Webmaster   |   September 8, 2023

Above: Kevin Bent (SPSC Co-Chair); Members: Joanne Gassman, Alan Peretz, Darwin Schandor

2022 proved to be the end of an era for Streetohome. Our founding Board Chair, John McLernon, initiated a strategic renewal process to revitalize our commitment to addressing homelessness and its impact on Vancouver, as he announced his departure as Chair in 2023.

It’s been 15 years since Streetohome was initiated by John at the Vancouver Foundation, inspired by his work with homeless youth. He brought together a strong Board of people with varying perspectives who worked cohesively as a team to impact change. Two of these individuals, founding directors Geoff Cowper and Kevin Bent, are leading the strategic planning process.

“Streetohome is an unbiased, trusted advisor and steward bringing a global private sector lens to local community initiatives, helping to ensure the best outcomes.”

Darwin Schandor, Committee Member

“When we started in 2008, we hoped that by advancing Housing First we’d enable existing services to fully engage with homeless people and to address the circumstances of their lives that needed help – whether it was mental health supports or recovery or something else,” says Geoff Cowper, and Co-chair of the Strategic Plan Steering Committee, alongside Kevin Bent.

Geoff Cowper, Co-Chair, Strategic Plan Steering Committee (SPSC)

“We’ve since tweaked our strategy and tactics to really look at where there were gaps in the system to put programs in place that had a significant impact in those areas,” explains Kevin.

As we move forward, our efforts will focus on complementing existing services and contributing to a holistic approach to meet the diverse needs of individuals, including: employment; learning, training & skills; housing; health & wellness; legal & advocacy; and community & belonging. Promising support services will be brokered and leveraged to complement the current system, alongside innovative housing models that include a comprehensive array of supports to reflect those needs.

“The community and belonging piece is really important now, especially in addressing mental health and substance use challenges. You need to feel valued, get up in the morning with a purpose, share what you’re doing and be able to rely on friends and family for feedback and support based on what you think is important in your life. It’s vitally imperative to being a well-rounded, thriving individual,” says Kevin.
“Delancey Street is a great example of this. It incorporates training, employment, and housing together while creating a culture of belonging and mutual accountability for participants.”

“We’re able to take risks and focus on adapting successful models proven in other jurisdictions to contribute to a more robust homelessness services system in Vancouver.”

Alan Peretz, Committee Member

Individuals are more likely to have improved outcomes when they’re able to find services and supports that meet their individual needs and desires, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.

“We’ve learned that engagement with services, and a variety of options to choose from, is critical to the success of clients,” says Geoff.

“Housing without that engagement with services is inadequate and incomplete. When you read the strategic framework, the main takeaway is that we need to focus our response to ensure that we maximize the accessibility of services to clients when we engage in new projects, as well as existing housing and programs.”

“I hope we can become a leader in connecting services with clients both in existing and new projects; be a champion in ensuring that people make the progress they want in their lives; and figure out how to best equip them and walk with them to make that progress,” says Geoff.

Streetohome’s renewed strategic framework will be released by the end of 2023.

“We’ve excelled at finding opportunities that no one else is addressing and engaging with others to enhance the system, and we’ll continue to build on this going forward.”

Joanne Gassman, Committee Member