New Housing First program keeps families out of shelter thanks to local organization

Nov. 14, 2018

In 2016, London’s average occupancy rate of emergency shelters was 98% (City of London). Mission Services Rotholme Family Shelter is currently at 195% capacity. With shelters in our community struggling to keep up with the demand of those seeking it, the time has come to re-evaluate options and build a better solution.  

Shelter use helps individuals and families that are living on the streets or without a home, but shelters also are frequently used when individuals or families are evicted from their current homes.  Mission Services has witnessed, many times over the years, family after family seeking shelter at their Rotholme facility, in an effort to provide their children with food, shelter, and a safe space - to provide their families with a home. However, the number of families seeking shelter with them has been steadily rising, putting them at 195% capacity. Determined to break the cycle of poverty and to keep families together, in their own homes, Mission Services is taking game-changing, preventative action.

That’s why Mission Services is a Community Vitality grant recipient this year. Receiving $250,000 from the Smart and Caring Community, Mission Services of London will establish their initiative: Prevention of Homelessness Among Families (PHAF) - Rotholme Housing First Program. Their goal? To keep families together, in their home, rather than having to live in a shelter.

"I really believe that it's game changing for their children's children. If there's one little boy or one little girl that knows that shelter is not the only option, I think it can change the face of poverty in this city for generations to come." - Mary Brown, Senior Development Officer, Mission Services


PHAF is comprised of three main components:

  1. Housing Selection: Assistance transitioning out of emergency shelter and finding/ securing permanent housing
  2. Housing Stability: Life skills coaching, help advocating with landlords or planning community support systems so that once a family returns to permanent housing, it can avoid future homelessness/shelter dependency; and
  3. Shelter Diversion: Assistance maintaining current or alternative housing to prevent the need for a stay in emergency shelter altogether.

This program will be game-changing for our community for a number of reasons. For example, it’s the only London area, family-specific location focused on comprehensive shelter diversion as a first response to families at risk of homelessness. But more so, with an estimation that upwards of 90% of families at risk of homelessness will stay housed, PHAF has the power to change the current state of affairs, turning around an undesirable trend in family homelessness. Simply put, Mission Services is hoping that this program will change the future of families today - but also of future ones by helping to break the cycle of homelessness now.

"I cannot imagine any better a cause than being able to say to somebody, "We've got your back, but you've got this. We're going to help you. You're going to be able to stay where you are. You're not going to have to move your children out of their school. They're not going to have to leave their friends. You're not going to have to tuck your babies into bed in a shelter tonight. We're going to find an alternative." And the relief and the impact that that makes on families is phenomenal." - Mary Brown


London Community Foundation is happy to have the opportunity to support an initiative as powerful as Mission Services’ Rotholme Housing First Program.  Thanks to all of the donors that contribute to the Smart & Caring Community Fund, this grant will help to get the program off the ground and running. This truly is a project funded by the community, for the community.  Congratulations to Mission Services of London for this incredible initiative!