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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex County Council Notes for Wednesday, August 11

by Sylene Argent

Preliminary Leamington Homeless Project results, County Housing Connection presented

Alissa Enns, Project Leader, Leamington Homelessness Project, and Carolyn Warkentin, Executive Director of South Essex Community Council (SECC), presented the preliminary results of the data collected through the Leamington Homeless Project and its recent surveying initiative. They also discussed a new homelessness service referral system, County Housing Connection, for individuals in the County.

  At the Wednesday, June 16 County Council meeting, it was noted that through the leadership of Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald, the Leamington Homeless Project initiative was formed to address the growing needs of individuals experiencing homelessness. SECC is the lead agency and provides oversight for the project.

  It was noted then that the Leamington Homelessness Committee organized an initiative for those who are experiencing housing insecurity, homelessness, or precarious housing conditions, so they could share their experiences through the project.

  The preliminary data was presented last Wednesday, with a more detailed report to come on September 17.

  It is hoped the data will provide for better understanding of the landscape of homeless in Leamington and will shed light on gaps and barriers on exiting the homelessness that exists.

  On Wednesday, Enns explained, the surveying initiative took place between June 14 and 18. Professionals in the field, who work directly with those who are experiencing homelessness, conducted the survey.

  For this initiative, those surveyed were individuals who were experiencing homelessness, living in precarious housing conditions, were housing insecure, and those who were at risk of homelessness.

  There were 72 respondents to the survey, of which 41 were housed. Of those housed, 73 percent were worried about losing their housing, Enns explained. 31 respondents were not housed, of which 17 were experiencing absolute homelessness and 14 were experiencing hidden homelessness, which is when an individual has a temporary or uncertain living situation, like couch surfing or living out of a car.

  Of the homeless population surveyed, the majority have been homeless for more than 18-months and half have been homeless more than once.

  “This demonstrates a trend of long-term and/or cyclical homelessness in Leamington,” she said.

  She added that when one hears 31 individuals are experiencing homelessness in Leamington, it may not sound like very much at first, especially when homelessness is not seen in communities as it is in the city.

  To put the numbers into perspective, in Leamington, using populations along with respected homeless counts, Enns explained that in Leamington, 11.2 out of 10,000 people are experiencing homelessness, whereas in Windsor, it is 8.9 out of 10,000.

  There are a few key steps to take, Enns said. She explained the two big things from the survey was to get a sense of service gaps and determine what supports people wanted to see in Leamington.

  Warkentin shared some of the work that happened as a result of the Leamington Homeless Committee and the coordination efforts, since the project started. One of those is the County Housing Connection program, which she said replicates what is happening in the City of Windsor and includes The Bridge, SECC, Family Services Windsor-Essex, and Housing Information Services.  

  One of the biggest issues in Leamington, Warkentin said, is getting people connected.

  There are five pillars for the County Housing Connection, including supporting those experiencing precarious housing, helping to define housing, registering individuals on the prioritized list, and homeless outreach, and offering ongoing support to those willing to participate.

  There is now one number, through SECC, for ease in connecting with resources.

The program, Warkentin explained, began July 5. Within the first two-weeks, there were seven intakes. Four of the intakes were individuals who were homeless and three were housed, but facing evictions. Six of the intakes were single individuals and one was a family.

  Since the program was started, one family and one individual have been housed.

  “The system is working well,” Warkentin said.

  The upcoming report will speak to how this program can be replicated in other communities.

  MacDonald said she knew nothing about homelessness when she was approached about the issue early on in her tenure as Mayor, which started this Term of Council. She was asked to use her influence as Chairperson to bring people together. 18 individuals ended up at the inaugural meeting.

  She explained that some of these individuals have jobs, their children need to go to school; they are not satisfied with being put in a taxi and sent to a shelter in the city.

  “I do believe that, at some point in time, we will have an effective solution that more communities can use as a model,” MacDonald said.

County supports City’s Rapid Housing Initiative for the Bridge, wants to further discussion on affordable housing

Essex County Council received the memo from the Housing and Children’s Services regarding the Rapid Housing Initiative for information, and pre-committed to the annual operating budget funding required, currently estimated at $48,000 in each of the post-construction operating years to a maximum of 20-years, to support the Round 2 Rapid Housing Initiative project for The Bridge.

  Essex County Council also approved providing a letter of support to the City of Windsor for submission with the application to Canada Mortgage and \ Housing Corporation – Rapid Housing Initiative –Round 2 Housing Corporation for the required operating and/or capital funding related to The Bridge project, and further approved entering into an agreement with the City of Windsor for the 20-year operating commitment for the County based on compliance with the Contribution Agreement with CMHC on the Rapid Housing Initiative.

  In addition, Essex County Council will request the Windsor City Council to support the immediate commencement of discussions on the development of a Regional Affordable Housing Strategy, including funding responsibilities, and to support the commencement of discussions on the review of the 1999 Social Housing Cost Sharing arbitrated agreement, with a view to addressing cost-sharing provisions for new regional units and regional housing and homelessness initiatives.

  Mary Birch, Director of Council and Community Services/Clerk, explained the County received information from the City of Windsor the week prior to the meeting that Round 2 of the Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) Funding had been announced and an application was wished to be made to use $1.86m of the $9.3 million allocated under the City stream of the funding for the Building Bridges Erie Shores program, known as The Bridge in Leamington, to build eight affordable housing units.

  Of the eight units, four would be supported through The Bridge’s case management services, requiring operational subsidy support, and four units serving priority populations as rental housing.

  In the memo from Housing and Children Services, it notes the Bridge is developing a proposal for a 12-unit Tiny Home modular project to serve a variety of population groups, including youth, seniors, couples, and singles, with an approximate cost of $165,000 per unit, subject to tender.

  The Bridge will offset any projected cost overages through a capital campaign.

  In order to meet the criteria for the RHI funding, support by way of a letter from a municipal partner is required, as well as funding from operational costs for the project for a twenty-year period.

  County Council was asked to commit to fund up to $48,000 annually for 20-years.

Birch noted County Finance staff have been consulted and advised the request can be accommodated through the levy for future budgets.

  Recently, she added, County Council heard about the current housing stock and the need for extensive renovations and repairs, as well as a need for new housing units. As funding for housing stock is not addressed in the cost-sharing agreement, it was recommended to review the funding agreement for the Regional Social Housing Cost and develop a new cost-sharing agreement, or an addendum to the existing one, that addresses cost-sharing principles for new regional housing units and homelessness initiatives.

  Kingsville Deputy Mayor Gord Queen said County Council has heard many times how important The Bridge program is. He said he would not have supported the matter had County Administration not suggested conversation happen with the City on the housing issue to ensure, moving forward, that when requests are made, a more updated report is given.  

  Essex Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said there is little access to affordable housing in the County for those who need it. As the service provider, he wondered what the City’s plans were to address that. Similarity to Queen, he would also not be willing to move forward with the funding, but did, since Administration noted it can be afforded and recommended to move forward.

  Meloche would like substantial talks to take place about the housing formula to address some of the County’s needs on the housing matter. He wants reassurance this will be talked about.

  He asked if the City was looking to address some of the issues already.

  Jelena Payne, Commissioner of Human and Health Services for Housing and Children’s Services, explained when housing is lost, it is traumatic and disruptive to the renters. She assured there are solutions and pathways in place to help. The way the system is designed, is for the masses. When numerous households experience homeless, the pathway to housing is sometimes, through the shelter system, which is designed to support people for the least amount of time possible, while they can secure safe and affordable housing.

  Warden Gary McNamara said a better job needs to be done in convincing counterparts in Ottawa and at the provincial-level to look more regionally when they put these programs together.

  Payne said whenever funds come through a program, it is always ensured representation is there from the County-level at the RFP evaluation. Just under 50 percent goes into the County for affordable housing. She said it is not enough to address the needs in the County or City.

  She assured everything is done based on a regional approach.

  The memo from Housing and Children Services notes, since 2007, through various housing rental capital funding funded through the federal and provincial governments, the City of Windsor, as the Service Manager for Windsor and Essex County, has invested $40 million in capital funding to expand affordable housing in Windsor and Essex County. Of that $40 million, $18,754,195 has been invested in the County of Essex, creating 203 affordable housing units to support a number of target populations, including, but not limited, to seniors and persons with disabilities.

 County looking at surplus

County Council received a report that noted, based on June year-to-date activity and discussions with the senior administration team, corporate operations are projected to be in a surplus position of approximately $1,015,020.

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