Funding for homelessness

·2 min read

Chatham-Kent has received some additional funding to help the homeless. But Polly Smith says the homelessness problem will continue unless new, affordable housing is built.

Ontario recently awarded around $1.7 million to the municipality bringing the total to $3.4 million the province has allocated for emergency housing and services.

Smith, director of employment and social services for the municipality, says the funding boosts local homelessness programs.

There were 103 registered community members in Chatham-Kent who do not have a place to call their own at present. Smith says. Some stay in emergency shelters; many surf from couch to couch to get by.

According to Smith, the new funding will augment the usual provincial funding of $1.8 million promised for the period of April 2021 to March 31, 2022.

However, she says, it’s about a third less than what is normally granted.

Smith says the money will be used to acquire motel and hotel spaces to support physical distancing of shelter residents, hire shelter staff and buy PPE and cleaning supplies.

The funding can also be used, Smith says, to help people with rent and utility bills, cover first and last month’s rent, as well as finding and maintaining housing for those who need it.

The department’s management team will soon finalize an “investment plan” for the funds with emergency housing and rapid re-housing as the number one priorities.

Smith says affordable brick and mortar buildings are what are really needed.

“The homelessness crisis will continue until there is more affordable housing options and more mental health and addiction services to assist people who are homeless,” the director adds.

Smith doesn’t think the private sector will come up with a solution, adding governments will have to intervene in the affordable housing issue.

“It’s not just poor people who can’t afford housing,” Smith notes. “Many people cannot afford housing.

“The government will have to step in, she adds. “The market’s not going in that direction.”

The monthly rental cost for a one-bed apartment in Chatham-Kent ranges from $1,029 to $3,440 according to RentBoard.ca

Funding Chatham-Kent’s homelessness prevention strategy is also on the to-do list.

“We are going to be highly focused and looking for opportunities to stretch our dollar,” Smith says.

“We need buildings and mental health and addictions services,” she explains, adding the municipality usually provides shelter to between 60-80 people per night.

The municipality currently maintains 32 rooms at one Chatham hotel.

Currently, Smith says local hotel rooms are in short supply with more long-term renters such as seniors occupying the space.

Smith says the number of people collecting Ontario Works in the municipality dropped in 2020, thanks to federal income supports such as CERB.

Currently there are 2,200 people collecting Ontario Works in Chatham-Kent.

Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Herald