By Chad Ingram
Published March 8 2018
Six homeless people in Haliburton County have been housed during the past year and a half or so and many more throughout the City of Kawartha Lakes.
Hope Lee CEO of the Kawartha Lakes Haliburton Housing Corporation visited Haliburton County councillors during a Feb. 28 meeting to update them on local progress under the 20000 Homes Campaign.
The City of Kawartha Lakes (which is the social services provider for Haliburton County) and the county joined the campaign in the summer of 2016. Its goal nationally was to house 20000 of the country’s most vulnerable homeless people by July 1 2018.
Locally within the service area of the city and county the goal was to house 24 people.
“We held our first registry week in August 2016” Lee told councillors. This registry involved 24 volunteers at 63 sites including libraries food banks etc. who ultimately surveyed 136 individuals. These individuals were either living unsheltered in shelters or were provisionally accommodated.
“The most that we see is the provisionally accommodated so that’s couch-surfing for example or living somewhere where they can’t really count on the next night” Lee said.
According to the results of the registry week 37 per cent of those surveyed were couch-surfing and 38 per cent had somewhere to stay temporarily.
To date Lee told council 60 of those individuals have been housed six of them in Haliburton County. The process started with the most vulnerable determined using an established set of assessment criteria.
Some of those individuals were chronically homeless which is defined as being without somewhere to live for six months or more in a year-long period.
“We still have individuals on the waiting list” Lee said.
For 2016 the estimated health care costs of unresolved homelessness locally were more than $16000 in ambulance expenses nearly $70000 in emergency room visits and almost $700000 on hospitalization.
Trent University is conducting a study following 14 individuals who have been through the process.
“And I’d say we’re seeing remarkable results” Lee said adding she meant not only in the heightened quality of life for the individuals but also in the reduced costs to the health-care system.
“So we’re being able to actually show how much better it is to provide housing and some support services compared to the high cost of a poor quality of life on the other side” Lee said.
There will be another registry week this year. As Lee explained all communities in Ontario are now required by the provincial government to conduct homelessness enumerations.
“If you have to enumerate . . . would you then be taking the current model and somehow enforce it?” asked Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt wondering if surveys would be conducted in say the small community of Oxtongue Lake.
Lee said that a working group has been established and that with lessons learned from the first time around the hope was to be able to delve deeper. However there are always limitations when it comes to getting a truly accurate picture of homelessness.
“We’ll never be able to capture everybody out there that’s homeless but we want to do the best job that we can” Lee said.
“Six people in the county may seem like small potatoes but for those six people it’s a huge move” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin.
Councillors voted to recommit to the 20000 Homes Campaign which has been refocused to eradicate chronic homelessness in 20 communities throughout Canada as well as house 20000 homeless by July 1 2020.