Oxford County working with agencies to track homeless numbers

·2 min read

Oxford County is teaming up with community agencies to establish a by-name list of people experiencing homelessness — a requirement by the province — to improve support and services for those sleeping rough.

“The by-name list is a real-time list of people experiencing homelessness in our community,” said Kelly Black, director of human services for the county.

Those experiencing homelessness or at risk of it need to give their consent to be added to the list, she added.

“It’s a way for Oxford County to understand who are the people that are experiencing homelessness in our community, where are they, and what support is it that they need from us to really have a better understanding of what that looks like across the county.”

The list, which is already up and running, will work in tandem with a “co-ordinated access” system, a way for community partners to better access and pair those on the list with available resources and services, Black said.

The county held an information session about the new approach in late June, where officials explained to area homelessness agencies how the list and co-ordinated access would work.

“We do have some that have signed on already, and we’ll be spending some time in the coming months interacting (and) connecting with some of our other partners who support the homeless population to have them come on board as well,” Black said.

The by-name list is required by provincial legislation and funded by Ontario’s Homelessness Prevention Program, which came into effect last April. The program requires municipalities to provide annual reports on performance to monitor progress on outcomes, the main one being a reduction in homelessness and chronic homelessness, a staff report states.

The county began working on the list in December 2021, when officials gathered information on the number of people who are homeless in the region.

Figures from that enumeration show 89 individuals who are homeless were interviewed. Ninety per cent typically stay in Woodstock, and 60 per cent have always lived in Oxford County. Three per cent said they were homeless with children, and 85 per cent said they were alone.

High rent was cited as the top barrier to housing, followed by low income, addiction and mental health issues, among others, the figures show.

As of late June, 39 people who are homeless — 59 per cent men and 41 per cent women — were on the county’s by-name list that is updated monthly.

Information pulled from the list and co-ordinated access system will be shared with county councillors over time, Black said.

“We’re hoping this information will better inform the system so we can make better choices to have a better impact,” she said.

cleon@postmedia.com

twitter.com/CalviatLFPress

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting