County renews support for housing campaign
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | March 8, 2018
Two years ago, Haliburton County endorsed the City of Kawartha Lakes’ efforts to reduce homelessness in the area.
Their goal, as part of the nationwide 20,000 Homes Campaign, was to house 24 people by July 1, 2018. On Feb. 28, county council learned they’ve surpassed that goal, housing 60 vulnerable individuals to date, six of whom are in Haliburton County.
“I’d say that’s only possible by the community coming together,” said Hope Lee, CEO of the Kawartha Lakes Haliburton Housing Corporation. “We have over 10 community partners that deal with the homeless population that work with us on an ongoing basis.”
When asked, she was unable to reveal where they’ve been housed due to privacy. Lee also attributed the success to the implementation of a Housing First model and many other initiatives “focused on providing supports and moving individuals out of homelessness.”
Housing First is a “rights-based intervention with the philosophy that all people deserve housing and that adequate housing is a precondition for recovery,” Lee told The Highlander. In order to better learn how adequate housing benefits these individuals, the City of Kawartha Lakes has contracted Trent University to do a study to analyze the impact of the Housing First project. It’s examining the progress of 14 individuals.
Within three months, they found hospital usage dropped 50-86 per cent; 911 calls decreased from about 35 per cent to 14 per cent; and the percentage of people transported to hospital by ambulance has been cut in half.
“I’d say we’re seeing remarkable results,” said Lee.
When the campaign launched, 136 people experiencing homelessness were surveyed. They were either living outside, in an emergency shelter or couch surfing. This is how the six local residents were identified. Provincial and federal funding has been utilized to help the homeless. Coun. Brent Devolin said that although six people might seem like a small number, it’s a step in the right direction.
“We’re incrementally gaining some ground on this,” said Devolin. “It’s a long, long process.”
The need continues to grow, reported Lee. At the end of December, there were 19 high acuity individuals experiencing homeless in the region. Fifteen are adults, three youth and one family. Six are chronically homeless, meaning they’ve been homeless six or more months in the last year. Lee requested council recommit to the 20,000 Homes Campaign for the next three years.
The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness has refocused its aim to end chronic homelessness in 20 communities and house 20,000 of the country’s most vulnerable individuals by July 1, 2020. Council voted to renew its support of the campaign.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.