Faraday Township council passed a Homelessness Resolution during their meeting on March 1, calling on the provincial government to end homelessness in Ontario, as the resolution states, “this crisis is taking a devastating toll on families and communities and undermining a healthy and prosperous Ontario.” The Association of Municipalities of Ontario encouraged municipalities to pass this resolution and other municipalities across Ontario have followed suit over the past couple of weeks. Jacqueline Demers, AMO media contact, Victoria Podbielski, the press secretary for the Minister Steve Clark of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Connor Dorey, director of community and human services with Hastings County and Jane Kali, executive director of North Hastings Community Trust comment on this resolution.
Faraday Township council passed this Homelessness Resolution at their meeting on March 1. In it, they urged the province to take definitive steps against homelessness in Ontario as it was taking a huge toll on communities and families across the province, undermining a healthy and prosperous Ontario.
Citing underinvestment and poor policy choices of previous provincial governments, and that fighting homelessness requires a myriad of housing, social service and health solutions from government, the resolution goes on to say that homelessness is felt most at the local government level and the residents they serve and that municipalities and District Social Administration Boards are doing all they can to fight homelessness, but need more resources.
Consequently, Faraday and the other municipalities that passed this resolution called on the Ontario government “to develop, resource and implement a comprehensive plan to prevent, reduce and end homelessness, and are urging the Ford government to work with AMO, and a broad range of community, health, Indigenous and economic partners to achieve the goal of ending homelessness in Ontario.
Demers told The Bancroft Times on March 10 that while they don’t have an exact number of municipalities that have passed the Homelessness Resolution, they do know of around eight, Faraday and Bancroft included.
She provided a quote from AMO’s president Colin Best, in which he addresses why AMO encouraged its members to pass these Homelessness Resolutions;
“Homelessness is taking a devastating toll on people and communities across Ontario and municipalities are increasingly concerned. It’s a made in Ontario crisis brought about by the provincial government’s policy decisions and choices over the last three decades. AMO is working with municipalities to share more about the impact of homelessness in our communities. As the provincial budget approaches, we are urging the government to commit to new investments to address the homelessness crisis and help us work toward solutions,” he says.
Demers says that municipalities across the province and District Social Service Boards in northern Ontario are passing these resolutions.
“Since we issued this call to action to our members two weeks ago, 23 resolutions to Premier Ford have been passed. This number is changing every day as more councils pass resolutions. The most recent one we know about was passed by Peel Region,” she says.
Demers reveals that AMO presented its pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs in February. She says the submission focused on increasing the supply of housing and tackling the homelessness crisis brought on by decades of failed provincial social and economic policies. Through remarks to the committee, AMO called on the provincial government to work with the municipal sector on increasing housing supply, provide immediate clarity on the province’s commitment to offset the cost impacts of Bill 23 on property taxpayers and commit to reverse legislative measures that are creating unintended consequences.
“AMO also highlighted homelessness across the province as a made in Ontario crisis created by the policy choices, underinvestment and indifference of successive provincial governments in areas such as income assistance, affordable housing, and mental health and addiction supports. AMO is calling for urgent, integrated, and collaborative action,” she says.
Podbielski confirmed on March 8 that the ministry had received the resolutions from Faraday and other municipalities and that they’re reviewing the feedback. She says that in partnership with their municipal and Indigenous partners, the government has provided nearly $4.4 billion over the past three years to grow and enhance community and supportive housing and address homelessness for vulnerable Ontarians.
“Last year, we launched the new Homelessness Prevention Program and invested an additional $25 million annually to help more people experiencing homelessness find safe housing and the support they need. The additional funding brings Ontario’s total yearly investment in the program to almost half a billion dollars,” she says.
Podbielski says that service managers like Hastings County have the flexibility to choose how to best use provincial funding for programs and services that address and prevent homelessness in their communities.
“In 2022/2023, the County of Hastings was allocated over $5.7 million through various housing and homelessness prevention programs including the Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative, the Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative, the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit, the Social Services Relief Fund and the HPP. This included an allocation of over $3.4 million under the HPP, which represents an increase of eight per cent from 2021/2022,” she says.
Podbielski says the Ontario government will continue to support service managers to ensure that municipalities get their fair share of funding under the National Housing Strategy and will continue to advocate to the federal government, who is underfunding Ontario by about $480 million for housing and homelessness over the term of the National Housing Strategy.
“To this end, the County of Hastings has been provided with 2023/2024 planning allocations totalling over $5.9 million to support vital work in providing affordable housing and homelessness prevention options in their local community,” she says.
Dorey told The Bancroft Times on March 10 that while Hastings County is indeed getting approximately $5.9 million from the province for housing and homelessness initiatives, and while it is appreciated, more provincial investment and work is needed. According to Dorey, not only further investments in programs but also systemic issues need to be addressed that are precluding people from getting appropriate housing.
“Addressing homelessness will continue to be a priority for Hastings County. The recent implementation of our By-Name List, a real-time list of individuals experiencing homelessness within Hastings County, allows us to better understand who is unhoused and how effective we are in responding to homelessness. In 2022, approximately 60 individuals experiencing homelessness were able to secure housing. By attaching individuals with the appropriate programs and services, we as a community can be more successful in helping people,” he says.
Dorey reveals that Hastings County is prioritizing the roll-out of Integrated Coordinated Access, a standardized, system-wide approach, designed to match individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness to appropriate programs and services.
“In order for this to be implemented effectively, we will need strong partnerships with social service organizations, the health care sector, local municipalities and other key stakeholders.”
Kali told The Bancroft Times on March 13 that it is of course good news when levels of government commit to ending homelessness and acknowledge that it is a social, economic and health crisis. But she does have some questions;
“What is taking so long? How many people must die first? How many studies, reports, counts, stories do all levels of government need to address this?” she asks.
Kali does put forth some answers for this crisis that she feels would help rectify it, however;
“Commit to 25 per cent of all new housing developments be rent geared to income, allow multiple homes on shared land (small homes, trailers, shelters), regulate/slow down the expansion of Airbnb, and build a 24 hour shelter this spring, with individual rooms, showers, laundry and kitchen,” she says. “The lack of truly affordable housing is due to decades of government neglect and favouring profit over people.”
By Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Mar 26, 2023 at 12:11