HURON COUNTY – Huron County councillors approved a recommendation by the county’s Homelessness Task Force to extend the emergency shelter program into 2022 and continue to provide housing stability supports after the shelter season ends.
Councillors received a report from Barbara Hall, director of social and property services, titled Emergency Shelter Season and Housing Stability Supports - 2021-2022, at the Jun 23 regular meeting.
Hall told council that the task force met on June 15 to discuss options for housing the regions homeless next winter.
“As Social and Property Services continues to explore options for permanent supportive housing for our vulnerable homeless individuals,” Hall said in her report. “We recognize that discussions with our community partners regarding the upcoming winter season should be initiated early to ensure a plan is in place for the winter of 2021-2022 along with housing stability supports when the shelter season ends.”
Currently, Huron County has existing one-year service contracts with Choices for Change and CMHA Elgin-Middlesex beginning Nov. 1, 2020, Hall’s report said.
“The program was developed to deliver direct shelter supervision during the winter season and assist participants with housing stability and social issues during the period when the shelter closes, allowing for a full year of housing stability supports,” stated the report. “As the contracts with both agencies expire on Nov. 1, 2021, the opportunity to explore extending the contracts for an additional year was discussed and recommended by the Homelessness Task Force … as part of the initiative to operate an emergency shelter for another winter season.”
According to Hall's report, funding for the 2021-2022 winter season shouldn't be a problem.
“Although County levy funds in the amount of $426,666 were raised in the 2021 County budget to cover the emergency shelter operating expenses and the housing stability supports during the period when the shelter closes in the warmer months, to date, no levy funds have been used for the shelter operating costs and/or the housing stability supports,” the report read.
“The costs of the emergency shelter and housing stability supports were covered by the provincial Social Services Relief Fund Phase 2 (SSRF) and by the provincial Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) funding. Additional SSRF Phase 3 funding has been earmarked to cover the anticipated November and December 2021 shelter operating costs and the funding raised in the levy of $426,666 in 2021 to cover all of the anticipated shelter expenses and housing stability supports in 2021 will not be required.”
The councillors discussed the available options for more permanent housing for those who receive support from the Emergency Shelter/Housing Stability Supports in Huron County.
The Task Force favours a capital project that would build a 20-unit apartment building with 24-hour supports on-site that would be a transitional space, ideally with no time limits, due to the scope of anyone individuals' specific needs when it comes to their social and economic abilities.
There are currently 28 people using the support system in Huron County, Hall told councillors.
Alternative options like tiny homes and mobile homes don’t provide the on-site support system for the tenants or the added security for support persons, who would have to put themselves in a more vulnerable position to visit clients in those situations.
None are off the table yet. County councillors requested a report be brought back looking at funding, options, delivery of services, and location ideas.
Past Warden Jim Ginn suggested that some lobbying might be in order to find some funding from the provincial and federal governments.
A motion was added to bring back a report on options and best practices for supportive housing. A letter will be drafted to send to the Western Wardens Caucus indicating their desire to request advocacy for supportive funding for the homeless.
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times