A youth group has won funding to launch community projects that would help people in Halifax better access affordable housing and services.
The group is part of Future City Builders, a national program in five cities, that engages 150 youth to create ideas for city-level issues and develop work-ready skills in the process.
In Halifax, 30 participants were recruited with many coming from diverse educational backgrounds, such as architecture, urban planning, engineering and business, to tackle housing issues.
Creating a network of support
Paige Farah and four other teammates won $7,500 in prize money at a pitch-off event in early March.
“As someone who has experienced housing insecurity pretty much all of my life, this was an issue that spoke to me deeply,” said Farah, a political science student at Saint Mary’s University.
Farah and her team are launching an online platform and mobile app called ROOF. It is place where people can find supports and service providers, such as food banks, mental health services and homeless shelters, to aid in their journey toward safe and affordable housing.
“The ROOF initiative is trying to look at not just how we can make sure that people have enough money to cover their monthly rent, but what other … causes or issues do people have in their lives that are making it harder to pay those monthly bills,” Farah said.
Users will be able to create a profile and search for service providers or programs under filters and tags, such as “domestic violence” and “English language services.” They will also be able to ask questions directly to service providers and sign in for notifications.
“We recognize that the journey to housing security and income security is a very long journey and throughout that journey you might have setbacks along the way,” Farah said. “But at least when you do you’re able to hop back on that platform and look at what can help you.”
The platform will also have an Arabic language option.The team hopes it will be able to have the online platform ready sometime in the next five months
Creating future affordable units
Another team of Future City Builder’s participants won $2,500 at the pitch-off.
The team’s project is called HFX Resilient Housing Network. It is focused on individuals between 18 and 29 in emergency housing who are also dealing with mental health issues and addictions.
“We want to create a network that would have developers, emergency shelters and other housing and homelessness stakeholders involved, but at the centre of all this to bring people that are experiencing homelessness, unstable housing and addictions to the centre to co-create future affordable units here in Halifax,” said Alfred Burgesson, the co-lead of Future City Builders in Halifax and a team member.
Burgesson said he has learned much about the city’s current state of housing that he didn’t know before becoming part of the program.
“I think more things like this can really bring the public’s voice to the table and I think youth especially need to have their voices heard and have the opportunity to create the future of the city they want to live in,” he said.