Deputy mayor of Oro-Medonte comments that some are ‘choosing’ to be homeless upset with Barrie mayor who says ‘land development and stalled housing market’ are to blame
Simcoe County has begun allocating over $11 million in multi-jurisdictional funding to help homeless people in the area.
During Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, County Council received a breakdown of how Simcoe County intends to distribute $11,130,115 in combined federal, provincial and municipal funding for 2022/23 to address homelessness in the 18 communities it serves.
The discussion veered off to the nature and root causes of homelessness.
Oro-Medonte Deputy Mayor Ralph Hough asked about everyone suffering from the pandemic and who may lose their homes as a result.
“There are a lot of people out there who are hurting, through no fault of their own,” Hough said. “I sympathize with the homeless, but some of them are by choice. Many people affected by the pandemic are not affected by choice. »
“Do we have a program to support these people? Hough asked.
Greg Bishop, the county’s general manager of social and community services, said the number of Ontario Works cases was increasing, noting that since Christmas the service had seen an increase of 600 new cases in Simcoe County. He said county staff are being redeployed internally to meet those needs. He also pointed to an increase in demands on the county’s housing retention fund.
“I’m happy to see that we’re helping the truly needy,” Hough said.
Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman spoke on Hough’s comments.
“Nobody is homeless by choice,” Lehman said. “Find me a homeless person who says, ‘I want to be homeless.'”
“With respect, we live in a society that tries to help those less fortunate, and I think this report is an incredible example of how our system can work. In my own city, rents have doubled, housing prices have tripled in 10 years, and that’s why we’re seeing more people at risk of becoming homeless,” he said.
“It’s a symptom of a broken land development and housing market,” Lehman said.
The funding envelopes that have been forwarded to Simcoe County by different levels of government for 2022/23 are:
- Federal Reaching Home (HR) Program – $601,782
- Provincial Community Initiative for the Prevention of Homelessness (PHCI) – $8,097,053
- Provincial Home for Good – $1,684,208
- Provincial Elders at Home (SAH) – $141,060
- Municipal (CHPI Municipal) – $1,000,531
Bishop noted that there has been a sharp increase in homelessness in Simcoe County throughout the pandemic. According to the last county homelessness census undertaken in 2020, on November 17 of that year, 563 people were counted as being homeless.
The situation has been constantly evolving, leading the provincial government to ask municipalities to conduct another census in 2021, which took place the week of November 17, 2021 in Simcoe County.
The results of this count have yet to be released, but will be compared to the 2020 iteration to determine trends.
While the provincial and federal governments have provided additional social services and relief funding to the county throughout the pandemic to support the COVID-19 emergency motel model, this funding is expected to run out by 31 March 2022, and there have been no further announcements yet. from the province to find out if additional funding will be provided under this program.
The main organizations that will receive funds from various sources include:
- Home Horizon in Collingwood – $160,779
- The Busby Center in Collingwood – $11,470
- The Busby Center in Barrie (various initiatives) – $805,249
- Elizabeth Fry Society Women’s Shelter in Barrie – $226,403
- Redwood Park in Barrie – $224,571
- Salvation Army in Barrie – $681,430
- Barrie Youth Haven – $780,404
- The Orillia Lighthouse (various initiatives) – $962,974
- Salvation Army in Orillia (street outreach) – $13,005
- Huronia Transition/Rosewood Shelter in Midland – $55,528
- Salvation Army in Midland (street outreach) – $40,000
- Shelter Now in Midland – $150,450
- The Guest House Hideaway in Midland – $315,430
- South Simcoe Community Information Center (CONTACT) in South Simcoe – $347,300
- Support and Hope for Individuals and Families (SHIFT) on the Streets of South Simcoe – $99,000
At Tuesday’s meeting, Ramara Township Mayor Basil Clarke said he was concerned when he saw the large number of organizations receiving funding and asked about individual treatment.
“I think we can assume that homeless people don’t have the internet. How are they informed of these programs? Clarke asked. “Is there someone who actually takes responsibility for finding these people, taking them by the hand, putting them in a shelter and supporting them while they are in a shelter? That’s what it takes.
Bishop pointed out that many services are receiving funding for street outreach teams and the advent of the Coordinated Care Access Program – which received $187,025 in this round of funding – which compiles information on each person. which accesses local programming and makes it available to multiple service providers.
The program was created to ensure Simcoe County service providers can track individuals, even as they move from area to area depending on life circumstances.
“It’s really important that there is collaboration and coordination in the existing system,” Bishop said.
The county council voted in favor of recommending the allowances in its committee of the whole. The decision will have to be ratified at the next meeting of the county council on February 22.