City of Windsor open to discussing hiring of 3rd Indigenous housing support worker

·2 min read
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the city hopes to leverage its own investments in affordable and supportive housing, and secure matching dollars from other levels of government, allowing Windsor to do more to help the city's homeless population. (Chris Ensing/CBC - image credit)
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the city hopes to leverage its own investments in affordable and supportive housing, and secure matching dollars from other levels of government, allowing Windsor to do more to help the city's homeless population. (Chris Ensing/CBC - image credit)

The City of Windsor would "welcome" discussions about hiring another Indigenous housing support worker, after a recent count showed 22 per cent of people experiencing homelessness in the city identify as Indigenous.

"We get a lot of questions and a lot of inquiries from various groups, various agencies," Jelena Payne, Windsor's Commissioner of Community Development and Health Services, said at a media event to unveil a new affordable housing project on Monday. "We sit down with everybody, we look at the data, we look at the momentum. We often try to collaborate among other agencies, to see if there's supports and resources in one area that can be diverted to another."

"Absolutely, if we haven't had that conversation yet, we would more than welcome it."

The city currently employs two Indigenous housing support workers, one of whom told CBC News last week that a third would help manage the over-representation of Indigenous people in Windsor's homeless population.

The city did announce plans to fund seven housing support and street outreach workers on Monday. The jobs were added during the pandemic, due to increasing homeless rates in the city.

The recent point-in-time count showed a 27 per cent increase in the number of homeless individuals on any given night in Windsor, when compared to 2018.

However, most of those are funded through outside agencies, Payne said, and much of that funding is due to expire in March.

"We know that that need will not go away for both the five permanent workers, and the two additional outreach workers," Payne said. "So we're asking City Council to consider that, and continuing that funding moving forward."

Payne said there are currently about 5,200 people on Windsor's affordable housing waiting list.

Overall, the city plans to spend about $250 million on affordable and supportive housing projects over the next decade, including $170 million to repair and renew housing units operated by the Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the city is hoping to leverage its investments for more funding from other levels of government.

"Never in my life, having lived here my whole life, did we ever think that there would be a housing affordability challenge in the city of Windsor," Mayor Drew Dilkens said at a media conference on Monday. "This is upon us really in the last five to six years, where we've seen the price of real estate ... more than double, in some cases triple."

"We always look to leverage dollars," he said. "When you have a federal government who says climate change is a priority, housing is a priority, then they turn the tap on to help fund those types of programs.

"That cascades its way down through the province to the municipalities," Dilkens said. "Then we're able to tap into those programs, and do more."

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