A new fundraising and awareness campaign aims to house thousands of Canada's most vulnerable citizens in three years.
The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) launched the "20,000 Homes" campaign in Toronto on Tuesday morning.
"We're trying to break the inertia of homeless system in Canada, challenge it with a bunch of action," CAEH President Tim Richter said, explaining that the campaign campaign aims to find homes for 20,000 people by July 1, 2018.
Richter joined housing advocate Katrina Gervais on CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday, to discuss the new program and the state of homelessness in Canada.
Gervais said the campaign was inspired by a U.S. initiative that saw 100,000 homeless Americans find housing in a four-year period.
"I thought, 'Why can't we do this in Canada?' It seems so simple," housing advocate Katrina Gervais said Tuesday.
Gervais spent years living on the streets and in transitional housing, and said she saw how great the need for affordable housing programs was in Canada.
"I was really excited to hear when the Canadian Alliance decided to take on the project and start the campaign."
So far, 21 communities across Canada have signed up to take part in the initiative, including Salt Spring Island, B.C., Lethbridge, Alta., Hamilton, Ont. and Moncton, N.B.
Volunteers will perform initial assessments, meeting with homeless people and conducting surveys, to help staff prioritize who will benefit most from the program. The data collected will be stored and used to track the program's progress over the three-year period.
"We can prioritize them basically based on their risk of death from homelessness," Richter said.
"It's not a survey in a research sense... What we're trying to do is get the information we need in order to find them housing quickly, and then move them as fast as we can into apartments."
When 20,000 high-priority people have been identified, the campaign will help them find permanent, safe and affordable homes in communities across Canada, then set up a support system so the home can be sustained.
Richter said the campaign will use money the federal government has set aside for homeless initiatives as a "running start."
The campaign is accepting donations, but most of the money will come from the Canadian "Housing First" program.
Communities that participate in the program will also be asked to come up with long-term plans to support improved housing placements and homeless care.
According to the 20,000 Homes website, 50 homeless people have been housed so far.