Finding solutions to homelessness

A national research conference at York aimed at finding solutions to the issue of homelessness received $225,000 in funding Wednesday, delivered in person by Judy Sgro, federal minister of citizenship and immigration, who said she looks forward to the results so she can “come back and be versed on it.”

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Above: From left, Lorna R. Marsden, Judy Sgro and Stephen Gaetz

“I am always glad to get back to York University,” said Sgro, who is also the local member of parliament, “since the government is always asking, ‘where is York on this [issue]?’”

sgro-shapsonBoth Sgro and York Professor Stephen Gaetz, the conference organizer, stressed that the event, which will bring together researchers, service providers, policy-makers and homeless people themselves, will be an important effort in finding a solution to the problem that concerns all Canadians.

Right: Judy Sgro chats with Stan Shapson, York vice-president research & innovation

“This investment…provides an opportunity to make research matter by showing that the research that we have, and that we need to produce, can be used for both policy and practice,” said Gaetz, a researcher in economic strategies of street youth and criminal victimization of homeless people and a professor in the undergraduate and graduate programs of York’s Faculty of Education.

“Homelessness is a crisis that calls for a collaborative solution – between academia, government, community agencies and citizens,” said Lorna R. Marsden, York president and vice-chancellor. “York is proud to host this ground-breaking conference.”

The funding represents the major portion of the federal government’s commitment to the conference, announced earlier this year with an initial grant of $45,923 (see story in the May 17 issue of YFile). It also supports commitments made in the Speech from the Throne and “the pledges we take as elected officials,” Sgro said. “You have a very important role here, to try to help us as government find solutions to this problem. No one should have to go to bed at night knowing there’s someone sleeping on the street or someone sleeping in a shelter because they don’t have anywhere else to be.”

“Never before have we been able to pull together researchers from different disciplines,” said Gaetz. “We consulted with many people both in Toronto and internationally, and there’s overwhelming support for this idea of holding a conference.”

Funding for the conference, to be held May 17-20, 2005, comes from the National Research Program, a component of the National Homeless Initiative designed to increase understanding of the magnitude, characteristics and causes of homelessness in Canada.

More information on the first annual National Research Conference on Homelessness is available online.