Analysis: Government Homelessness Program Amended to Allow Funds to be Spent on Covid-19 Instead

By: Greg Staley

Date Written On: 2021-06-07

A Federal Government program for Homelessness known as the “Reaching Home” program received an amendment this year that allows for funding that was originally allocated towards homelessness to be used for Covid-19 related purposes instead. The “Reaching Home” program is a redesigned version of the “Homelessness Partnering Strategy.”

The program first appeared under its redesign name in 2019 when it gave funding to the City of Toronto and is run by Employment and Social Development Canada.

What The Amendment Allows For the Money to be Spent On

The Government of Canada has a release that talks about the new amendments to the program. In this release, it says that “modifications have been made to broaden eligible activities related to basic needs services and health and medical services to enable communities implement comprehensive responses to the COVID-19 crisis.” What are these modifications that have been made and what eligible activities are now permitted?

Example of Search Result on Open Gov Canada

The release says that “to enable communities to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, Reaching Home has added a new temporary category of eligible activities and expenses.” Communities are “still encouraged” to continue providing individuals with clinical, health and treatment services but aren’t required to use the funding for this reason.

In addressing concerns over how the funding might be used, the release said that given this is a new eligible expense “communities will be asked to specifically identify amounts spent on health and medical services.” Diverge Media has begun the process of reaching out for this information.

List of New Ways Funding Can be Used
  1. Reaching Home Funding can be used to “place individuals in temporary, transitional, or permanent housing accommodations including for the purposes of self-isolation.”
  2. Reaching Home Funding can be used for the “direct hiring of health care professionals (for example, nurses, doctors) to provide services directly to clients.”
  3. Reaching Home Funding can be used to acquire and or provide “shelter beds and physical barriers to be placed between beds.”
  4. Reaching Home Funding can be used to buy “personal protection equipment (for example, gloves, masks, gowns, shoe covers), cleaning equipment and cleaning/disinfectant supplies.”
  5. Reaching Home Funding can be used to “support overhead costs.” This includes costs that are “supported under Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.” This means funds can be allocated to things like EI and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) among a litany of other possibilities.
  6. Reaching Home Funding can be used to train existing staff/volunteers on, for example, “appropriate practices to reduce the risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19.” So it’s possible that some of these funds have been allocated to info sessions on how to “reduce the risk of infection and transmission” from Covid-19.

The amendment to the Reaching Home programs also allows for the funds to be allocated to “support overhead costs” that are “central to the functioning of the organization” and it’s delivery of programs.

This includes all those programs “supported by Canada’s Covid-19 Economic Response Plan” which means that many expenses become eligible under this new broad definition.

Some of these Eligible Expenses May Include:

This is a short list – many other possible uses for the funding are possible as long as it’s “central to the functioning of the organization” and the delivery of it’s programs and is supported by Canada’s Covid-19 Economic Response Plan (a lot of programs supported by the response plan).

Programs supported by Canada’s Covid-19 Economic Response Plan
  • Employment Insurance (EI) program
  • Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)
  • Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)
  • Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)
  • Mortgage payment deferral
  • Waiving interest on student and apprentice loans
  • Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)
  • Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)
How much money has been given to cities?

After performing a grants and contributions search on the Open Canada website with the search terms “Reaching Home Covid” I received 85 records. I did not include community organizations who received Reaching Home funding into my analysis – only cities and municipalities who received funds directly are included in this data (except Alberta Rural Development Network). The Alberta RDN was ” created as a partnership of Alberta’s 21 public post-secondary institutions” so I kept it on the list.

I discovered that 37 cities/municipalities had taken the Reaching Home funding that had been reclassified under the amendment that allowed for the funding to be used on Covid-19 related expenditures. I discovered through a departmental results report that the projected spending of this program was expected to be 193 million dollars in 2020 – all money that can be allocated to purchase things like masks, sanitizer and even hire doctors and nurses.

My calculations showed that over 340 million dollars has been committed to these cities and municipalities in the name of Reaching Home funding. The majority of this funding is set to end on one of two dates – either June 30th, 2021 or March 31st, 2021. There is one exception to the rule and that is the city of Toronto who was the first to receive funding under the Reaching Home name. Toronto has one agreement that’s in place from April 1st, 2019 – March 31st, 2024 and it’s worth over 127 million dollars.

When did most cities receive their funding?

On April 1st of 2020 these cities likely began receiving their funding from the Reaching Home program (agreement date began April 1, 2020 for many recipients). Shortly after the agreement came into place (for most cities) the province of Ontario updated their list of businesses that would be closing effective April 4th, 2020 to include a much broader range of businesses.

We will see what the money has been spent on as we request it from various recipients involved but we believe that this money is essentially a giant slush fund for anything with a Covid label attached. The list of uses for this funding is long and extensive and the timing of many of these agreements is (in my opinion) suspicious and needs to be examined further.

What are some major Cities/municipalities that have agreements under Reaching Home?
  • City of Toronto
  • Ministére de la Santé et des Services sociaux – Quebec
  • City of Ottawa
  • Regional Municipality of Peel
  • City of Hamilton
  • Regional Municipality of Waterloo
  • Regional Municipality of Durham
  • The Corporation of the County of Simcoe
  • The Regional Municipality of Halton
  • Regional Municipality of Niagara
  • City of Brantford
  • City of London
  • City of Windsor
Map of all cities/towns to receive Reaching Home Covid Funding

Diverge Media has begun the process of reaching out to some of the cities that received large contributions to ask for an record of where the money was spent – and more importantly did any of it go to hiring healthcare professionals as the amendment allows for? Below is a pin drop map of all the cities/municipalities that received Reaching Home Funding that we discovered.

Diverge Media will continue to monitor this story and release more information as it becomes available to us. In my opinion this has the appearance of being a slush fund that can be used for almost anything under the sun. This story needs to be investigated further as a lot of taxpayer money has been dedicated to this program – lets hope these cities were diligent with the finances but I won’t be holding my breath.

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Published by Greg Staley

Greg Staley is a husband and a father to 4 beautiful girls. He is the owner of Diverge Media and takes pride in telling the stories that matter - even if they may be unpopular. In addition to writing, editing, and producing videos and articles for Diverge, Mr. Staley also works full-time on a farm. Mr. Staley is working hard to be able to pursue Diverge Media full-time and wholeheartedly believes that it will become a reality in the near-future with the support of the readers/viewers of Diverge Media.