Addressing homelessness myths

·2 min read

While homelessness is still an issue in Chatham-Kent, local officials say much is being done to help the vulnerable, beginning with dispelling homelessness myths.

According to the Director of Employment and Social Services, Polly Smith, it is a myth that people seen living rough on the streets aren’t connected to community services.

Smith said the department, along with numerous partners, reach out daily to the homeless to offer assistance and provide basic needs.

“This is simply not the case,” said Smith. “Individuals may choose to stay in the situation for a variety of reasons, including the right services or housing is not available, they are not ready, or they prefer where they are versus the services offered.”

She added there is a known shortage of affordable and supportive housing options.

“This has been a long time coming and will take time to resolve,” said Smith.

The department added there’s no truth that homeless people from out of town are bused into Chatham-Kent from other cities when their shelters are full.

According to a statement, approximately 17 to 25 people are currently “sleeping rough” in the community, and approximately eight percent of those are from outside the municipality.

“Municipalities are not in the habit of downloading their homelessness problems to other municipalities. Social services throughout Ontario will, however, pay for transportation to enable individuals to return to their home community when needed,” read the release.

“This helps people who find themselves stranded to return to family and services where they are more likely to be successful. Chatham-Kent employment and social services offer this help as well to people who present as homeless, but have little connection to the community.”

Anyone experiencing homelessness in Chatham-Kent, or is in danger of homelessness, can call employment and social services at 519-351-8573.

The public may also call this number if they see someone who appears homeless in a new location, who may not have yet been contacted. For after-hours homelessness emergencies, call 519-354-6628.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News