People accessing homeless support quadruples in Grey County

Homelessness is on the rise in Grey County.

At its meeting on Oct. 27, Director of Community Service Anne Marie Shaw delivered a troubling report about the rising number of people experiencing homelessness across the county.

“Since 2020 the need has increased four times,” said Shaw. “We’re definitely looking at a more dire situation, it’s not sustainable with the funding we receive from the province.”

Shaw said in 2020 the county was assisting 25 - 30 people experiencing chronic homelessness (six months or longer). That number has now risen to 107. In order to provide short-term assistance, the county has partnered with motel owners to provide temporary housing to those in need. Shaw said the county has doubled the number of rooms available to 30 in total.

“They are full every night,” she said.

The county does have programs in place to help people navigate the support resources that are available and they work with other agencies to address the situation, but the bottom line, said Shaw, is the physical resources are not keeping pace with the needs. In addition, the county is seeing more complex needs from those they are assisting and that is a complicating factor in addressing the issue. A motel room isn’t appropriate for everyone.

“Right now it’s difficult for us to find places for people to go,” she said.

Shaw said there is some good news. Last month, the county successfully assisted 11 people to find permanent housing. The county continues to increase the stock of available units for those experiencing homelessness, their data collection on the issue continues to grow, which in turn helps them better understand the needs of those who lack adequate housing and the county is advocating for funding to increase from other levels of government.

Shaw encouraged members of county council to encourage their local municipalities to take steps to assist by having warming centres open during the winter months.

Southgate Deputy Mayor Brian Milne called the report “sobering” and asked if rooming-style housing accommodation would help solve the problems.

Shaw said that was one option the county could explore in partnership with local municipalities.

Owen Sound Deputy Mayor Brian O’Leary asked if the people the county is helping are local residents or if they are from outside the community. O’Leary also asked what other local municipal jurisdictions were experiencing when it comes to homelessness.

“From what we’re seeing, the majority of people are local. They are ours. They are people who were hanging by a thread and now the thread is not there,” said Shaw, who said managers she speaks and meets with from other areas are describing similar issues. “It’s a huge and complex problem.”

Shaw said some solutions to address the issue include: a living wage, more healthcare and mental health supports and housing options and the broader availability of emergency short-term shelter spaces.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca