Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury: How other communities are tackling homelessness

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Homelessness

As municipal discussions continue locally regarding potential solutions to support the homeless in Sault Ste. Marie (see article here), surrounding cities are moving forward with projects to actively tackle this difficult issue.

As previously reported, Sault Ste. Marie’s homeless populations has now been quantified (see article here), and with the onset of Winter, many are wondering what is being done to remedy the situation.

SaultOnline has been following plans being executed in Timmins and also Sudbury.  Now, again out of Sudbury, another example of how that city is rallying in support of its homeless populations.

In a recent report, it was said that the City of Greater Sudbury plans to move ahead with several projects to help the City’s homeless population, including working on setting up a nine bed women’s shelter for the winter.

At a meeting Tuesday night, Sudbury City Staff presented a report outlining a number of actions the City could take, using federal and provincial funding streams.

The proposed projects include spending $200,000 annually on a “master lease” with a private landlord to provide up to 20 housing units, which would be assigned through an existing program like the Homelessness Network. There is also a plan to spend $80,000 to renovate 10 existing two-bedroom social housing units into one-bedroom apartments to meet current demand.

The report says investing an extra $380,000 in various housing solutions could assist up to 80 people with permanent housing.

While some Councillors expressed concerns that the City should be doing more, the plan was ultimately supported unanimously.

“It certainly does not exclude other future options or solutions as they’re identified and as they may come forward,” said Coun. Fern Cormier, who put forward the motion in support of the plan. “This has been an ongoing file, an ongoing project.”

At the meeting, Councillors heard from staff that a major challenge right now is a shortage of staff in the homelessness sector. Tyler Campbell, the City’s Director of Social Services, said many service providers have reported having a hard time recruiting and retaining qualified employees.

The new women’s shelter, for example, has an organization willing to run it, but still needs to recruit workers.  A recent article published by Dan Grey had some local service providers voicing similar concerns here in the Sault (see article here).

Joscelyne Landry-Altmann is the City Councillor for Ward 12 in the City of Greater Sudbury.
The staffing shortage prompted Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann to ask what she admitted was likely a “not very popular” question.  She asked about the merits of putting a “cap” on services, and “establishing a number of spaces and services we can provide, and working within that.”

She expressed concerns about the number of people moving to Sudbury from other municipalities and seeking services, a sentiment that was later echoed by Coun. Mark Signoretti.

“There’s a threshold that the municipality of Greater Sudbury can handle, and I think we’re at that point at the present time,” Signoretti said.

Homelessness consultant Iain De Jong, who was present during the meeting, said he’s not aware of any other municipalities that have implemented a cap, nor any way to do it logistically. He noted that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows for freedom of mobility.

Coun. Michael Vagnini said he felt city council was “going down a dangerous path when we start talking about putting caps in place.”

“It sounds like some crazy movie.”

This is a strong example of a municipal discussion resulting in collaborative decisions to remedy a community problem, leveraging all available tools is support of the more vulnerable members of the population.

— with files from cbc.ca

1 COMMENT

  1. Homeless, is there really such a thing anymore. I think the definition needs to be changed. There are those that need a place to sleep and we have beds for them and food until they get back on their feet. There are those that are homeless but choose to live that way so they can collect money for alcohol and drugs and live off the community. They can now just walk into a Grocery Store , fill their shopping cart and walk out without paying. This should be treated as a crime and those people should be sent to jail or at least do some kind of community work. I think people would be surprised at the amount of people that would get a job if the free lunch was cut off.

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