Housing situation in Bruce County is not improving

BRUCE COUNTY – The county’s human services committee meeting on March 2 included an update on the community housing registry waiting list for the fourth quarter of 2022.

The report by Christine MacDonald, director of human services, painted a picture of a growing problem. There are currently 942 applicants on the waiting list – 897 for rent-geared-to-income, and 45 market rent applications.

During 2022, 51 applicants were housed, 15 of them in the fourth quarter of the year.

As of the end of 2021, the waiting list was 719.

MacDonald’s report noted that the list has increased, and although staff are “working diligently” to ensure housing units are offered to applicants in a timely manner, the process has been slowed by fires at 401 Cayley St. in January 2022 and at 398 John St. in December 2022.

The report stated some applicants may be receiving “some level of housing subsidy support, such as a housing allowance or rent supplement, while they wait for a rent-geared-to-income unit.”

Housing was a major topic of discussion at the March 2 meeting. There was a presentation during the meeting of county council be the United Housing for All – Homelessness subgroup, a Saugeen Shores-based organization. Presenters were Herb Schmid, Susan Brown, John Van Bastelaar and June Van Bastelaar.

“Homelessness is an issue within our community,” said John Van Bastelaar. “Housing is a right.”

June Van Bastelaar said some of the stories people tell, of people who can’t afford food after they pay the rent, are heart-breaking.

She noted that while Saugeen Shores is an affluent community, there are people in need.

Brown said there’s virtually no housing available for someone earning a little over minimum wage. She noted Bruce County has 45 people currently in emergency shelters, with some of them in Saugeen Shores.

Schmid said he was “struck by the contrasts in the community.”

The group is about “building bridges” and connections.

County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, Saugeen Shores, commented on the human services master plan, and “how to engage folks like these.”

Warden Chris Peabody, Brockton, said he didn’t “understand how anyone could survive on the housing allowance people on ODSP (disability) receive,” and said he’d like to see a commitment from the province to increase such payments.

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