Bruce County endorses two motions on homelessness

BRUCE COUNTY – The Nov. 3 meeting of Bruce County council had only two items on the agenda that required action. Both originated with the Municipality of Brockton.

The first was on homelessness, which requested more supports for addiction treatment, as well as homelessness.

County Coun. (alternate) Don Murray, Huron-Kinloss, said, “I can support your motion on homelessness; I just wish we had more in it on affordable housing because I think that’s going to be a real draw on municipalities over the next term... it’s something I would look forward to having more discussion on.”

The other item arose as an item under “notices of motion.” It, too, was about addiction and homelessness and advocated an increase in payments for those receiving ODSP and Ontario Works.

County Coun. Steve Hammell, Arran-Elderslie, said he’d become aware through conversation with the operators of an unregulated group home in Chesley that the amounts vary in different parts of the province. He wanted to know if the motion asked for the amount to be increased to what people in another part of the province are getting, or was asking for amounts in the whole province to be increased.

Christine MacDonald, director of human services, answered that “the differing benefits are... in shelter and basic needs being separated... and people with special medical needs might receive another subsidy.” She added that another factor might be very northerly or remote locations.

“Generally, you see the rates being consistent across the province,” she said.

Recently, ODSP (disability) recipients received an increase, which Ontario Works recipients did not receive.

At her suggestion, correspondence will be forwarded to the Ministry of Housing in addition to others listed in the motion, since supportive housing tends to be “a collaboration between Ministry of Health, Ministry of Housing, and sometimes MCCSS programs.”

County Coun. Chris Peabody, Brockton, who chaired the meeting, commented, “The main rationale for this... was in August, when Director MacDonald presented... I was struck by how low the housing component is for the supports – for a single person, $480.”

He added that considering how much the average rent is in Brockton

“We can’t be concerned about seeing more homeless people on our streets without giving them more rent supports. Other than the five per cent for ODSP, the amounts have been frozen for a long time.”

Well water testing discussed

A last-minute addition to the agenda came in the form of a notice of motion from Saugeen Shores, where the drop-off centre for people wanting their private well water tested has been removed. People wanting their water tested now need to go outside the municipality.

The motion calls for maintaining the drop-off service in Saugeen Shores, and is asking the county to endorse the letter to the medical officer of health.

The matter will be on the agenda for the next council to consider.

County Coun. (alternate) Don Matheson said it’s not just Saugeen Shores where water testing has dropped off. The province dropped it everywhere during COVID.

“To do this, we wanted to make sure that not just Saugeen Shores but all of Bruce County and all of Ontario have the adequate water protection that is required... We don’t need another incident,” he said,

He noted a lot of people are still on wells, and need adequate testing facilities “so they don’t have to drive two hours to get a water sample tested.”

Hammell mentioned the need to look up locations of other centres, and CAO Derrick Thomson suggested Saugeen Shores may have that information when the matter comes back to the new council.

Peabody commented Brockton had to fight to keep its water testing centre. The one at the hospital closed during COVID, but a new drop-off centre was set up at the arena – it seems to be working well.

In closing, Peabody thanked Warden Janice Jackson, South Bruce Peninsula; County Coun. Robert Buckle, South Bruce; County Coun. Mitch Twolan, Huron-Kinloss; and County Coun. Gerry Glover, Kincardine, for their service, and said he looks forward to working with the new council, although he’ll miss working with the current group.

The new council will be inaugurated on Dec. 1.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times