“Finding permanent housing for the homeless does not solve the problem of homelessness.”
WHY ‘HOUSING FIRST’ APPROACHES TO SOLVING HOMELESSNESS DON’T WORK
In 2004, after many years of work in fields as diverse as community project management, corporate management, venture capital fundraising, and coordinating self-employment programs for the Federal Government, I stepped into my dream job. It was converting the infamously violent Occidental Hotel (at Main and Logan, in Winnipeg, Canada) into the Red Road Lodge – Home for Recovery. Going in, I didn’t imagine that this would be my dream job, but as someone who had battled their own demons with addiction and mental disorders I felt a kinship with the residents and their struggles.
In 2006 the Federal Government came up with the ‘Housing First’ approach to solve the growing homelessness crisis. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) requested 10 rooms at Red Road Lodge to house 10 homeless individuals. Sadly and despite good intentions, this model did not work. In fact, it failed very quickly. It failed because, despite seeming to be a logical solution, it was conceived of and designed by people who had never experienced homelessness themselves, and didn’t understand the addiction and mental health issues at the root of nearly all homelessness.
Until all levels of government involved in creating strategies, initiatives and policies aimed at solving our ever worsening homelessness situation are educated in what complex trauma is, how it relates to addiction, mental disorders and ultimately homelessness, their solutions will continue to fail.
With the dissolution of the non-profit organization Manitobans For Human Rights in 2022, my role as Director of Human Rights Learning has come to an end, and I’m excited by the opportunity to focus my time exclusively on helping solve the homelessness crisis.
With my decades of personal and professional experience I am eager to work with policy makers on the realities of complex trauma, how it relates to mental health, incarceration, addiction and homelessness, so that we might finally implement successful solutions based on the realities of homelessness.
Jane at Red Road Lodge – Home for Recovery
Testimonial from Richard Walls, Board Chair and CEO
Red Road Lodge – Home for Recovery
“Energetic. Enthusiastic. Compassionate. Caring. These are four words that can be used to describe the aura that radiates from Jane Meagher the moment she walks into a room. In 2004 Jane accepted the daunting task of helping to convert the infamous New Occidental Hotel from one of Winnipeg’s roughest and toughest bars into the Red Road Lodge – Home for Recovery. This was established as a dry facility, focused on helping people transition from substance abuse and homelessness to safe, stable housing, supplemented with life and job skills programming.
“Jane Meagher brings a fresh approach and new ideas to every situation based on her lived experience and her vast understanding of substance abuse, mental health and homelessness. She understands the importance of respecting cultural diversity, as well as an individual’s right to alternative lifestyle choices. During Jane’s seven year tenure at the Red Road Lodge she worked one-on-one and in group settings helping people recognize their strengths and weakness. She motivated them to regain their self respect by having them take control of their own lives.
“Jane is a natural leader and motivator, as well as a dynamic public speaker who is able to draw on her past experiences, good and not so good, to teach others the importance of a positive attitude regardless of the adverse circumstances they may be facing.”
UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS, Article 25
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of their family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, loss of partner, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control.
(2) Parenthood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children … shall enjoy the same social protection.
(In recognition of gender diversity, Jane Meagher has adapted the above text, including replacing original male-focused wording.)