Homelessness in Northumberland County

A home for everyone is keyAt the recent Municipal Election, homelessness was a major issue with candidates being asked questions as to what they would do.  The prime responsibility for tackling the homelessness problem rests with the County and at the next County Council meeting on 21 November, a report will be presented on a survey taken during the week of April 16th – 20th, 2018 to measure the extent of homelessness in the County.  Although the survey probably did not include 100% of those experiencing homelessness, it is believed to be a good snapshot. During the “registry week”, volunteers were able to connect with 51 individuals and 10 families who were experiencing homelessness. That is, “people who are completely unsheltered, living in emergency shelter, or provisionally accommodated without permanent tenancy”.

The full 74 page report is available for download from the links below but let me list some highlights:

Respondents
  • 11 youth (age 16-24)
  • 41 adults (age 25+)
  • 10 families (with a total of 21 children under 18 living with parents – All single parents)
Demographics
  • 26% of households identified as Indigenous or having Indigenous ancestry,
  • 5% served in the Canadian Military or RCMP,
  • 19% indicated that they had moved to the area within the last year,
  • 19% of respondents have been incarcerated within the past 6 months
Depth of Need (Acuity) – Youth
  • 18% scored low (no housing intervention or case management recommended),
  • 45% scored moderate (recommended for rapid re-housing), and
  • 36% scored high (recommended for permanent supportive housing).
Depth of Need – Adult
  • 7% scored low,
  • 34% scored moderate, and
  • 59% scored in the highest acuity.
Depth of Need – Families
  • 0% scored low,
  • 10% scored moderate, and
  • 90% scored in the highest acuity range.
Length of Time Homeless
  • 63% of survey respondents indicated being homeless for 6 or more months in the past year, a marker for chronic homelessness.
Housing History (where they most frequently sleep)
  • 31% Couch surfing or staying with friends
  • 21% temporary shelter at motels
  • 11% sleeping outside
Causes
  • 63% of adults and 80% of families – experienced emotional, physical, psychological, sexual or other type of abuse or trauma
  • 64% of youth – had an unhealthy relationship or abusive relationship either at home or elsewhere.
Health and Crisis Services
  • 172 visits to the Emergency Room,
  • 58 rides in an ambulance,
  • 32 hospitalizations,
  • 208 interactions with police, and
  • 74 interactions with other crisis services.

The report does not discuss any actions to be taken to resolve these problems – but knowing the size and scope of a problem is the first step.

We know that the Cobourg Police Station now has facilities for homeless people (warming, showers, washrooms) and that Transition house has now re-started and that Cornerstone is overloaded and we know that Habitat for Humanity is helping with houses but the County is separate to a lot of this and as far as I know, currently only manages welfare. (Although they are involved with Transition House).  If they do more, they don’t get the word out – at least not to people like me who don’t need the services [See comment from Deborah O’Connor for more on this.]

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Wally Keeler

from web urbanist https://weburbanist.com/2018/11/02/re-habit-transforming-abandoned-big-box-retailers-to-housing-for-homeless/?fbclid=IwAR0eVRHbOYtTxDkVr7luyHW5S19Ip5eDYed8wnndjyHFmrp_7xHGIp5-ZI8

“With the age of big box stores waning, all those massive abandoned retail facilities could be transformed almost instantly into housing for the homeless using a variety of plug-and-play prefab elements. The research and development studio at KTGY Architecture + Planning in Los Angeles considers what we seem to need space for the most in cities – housing people who tend to fall through the cracks as the cost of living continues to increase – and builds entire complexes of supportive spaces and services within the empty shells of stores like Sears and JCPenney.”

Kevin

In the comments I responded to Deborah and Ben responded to me. To be clear my experience is with tenants so not the homeless. I do not think that ‘low income people are feckless spendthrifts’. In fact, with less funds available, low income people could be more financially responsible than high income neighbours. In a small building most of the tenants pay rent in full and on time. Some tenants are retirement aged and still work, one is retired, some are couples with one or both people working. One couple did not save when they were working and now with health problems are living on assistance. Two apartments are rented by a government agency to house people requiring assistance. One of these tenants works (likely minimum wage) the other tenant lives with parents. The apartment has been empty, but available for this individual for nearly a year. In one apartment a family that had two income earners now has one, is not financially responsible and risks being evicted. After struggling for several months to pay rent, one young family broke up and moved in with parents. Alcohol was a factor. When a new couple moved in he quit his job… Read more »

Kyle

I know a number of people who spent their earnings on all the toys and trips and never worked at paying down their mortgage like many of us. They fully expect the Government to “take care of them” for free when they require assistance as a senior. Good luck with that and it looks good on them. Maybe it will set some actual example for the next generation. Obviously the old proverbs didn’t work for them.

Wally Keeler

“Canada has pledged $50-million in foreign-aid funding to support vulnerable Palestinians coping with the effects of the continuing humanitarian crisis and boost economic prosperity for women and youth in the West Bank and Gaza.” — Globe & Mail, July 30, 2018.

“Just whose money are we talking about here?” — Rusty Brown, Nov 19, 2018.

Rusty Brown

Uh, Wally: my question was in reply to a comment that said “…There must be a lot of citizen goodwill and money available in this county for a cause like homelessness.” Nothing to do with West Bank or Gaza. Just in fairness to myself.

Walter L. Luedtke

Homelessness is certainly a problem here as in other jurisdiction, but in Cobourg,with its large Seniors demographic, accessible housing looms larger.
Homes may still be affordable in Cobourg, but Mayors and Councillors across Ontario have stated that housing supply and accessibility represents one of the most crucial challenges our new municipal governments must take action on.
Our existing housing isn’t well-suited to our aging population, who face the prospect of moving away from their home neighborhoods get necessary support.
There is an urgent shortage of housing options that can cater to our Seniors as their needs evolve in the coming years.

Troubled waters

Yes its true your mental health will fail . depression sets in , you give up Loose every thing , may be drugs not always . Its usually as a result of job loss , eviction , can’t find work with enough income to afford rent , food, cloths,Phone ,or transportation and yes health care , treatment and medication contrary to popular belief is not Free in Canada .and less in Ontario . You can not find a decent place to Rent / live in this area let alone feed your self on $800.to $1200 per month Let me know if you do and when that might become vacant as the line ups are mighty long for these units and Non Profit / geared to income housing . You need decent basic support $ which has not been addressed or forth coming . yes there is talk from the Politicians yr after yr. about Affordable housing but that just a BUZZ word and slow to build Real dollars with proper cost of living increases in the pockets of those who need it and especially our seniors . The suicide rates in this area of elderly people has gone through the… Read more »

Walter L. Luedtke

With the Ford government scrapping rent control for new units across Ontario, affordable housing advocates are cautioning the changes could mark a return to sky-high rent increases for Ontario tenants.

Rob

IMHO – You can not address the issue of homelessness without understanding and addressing the underlying causation. We have a mental health crisis in the Province which is resulting in increased addiction, increased incarceration, increased pressure on the health care system and increased homelessness. Our systems are ill equipped to address the current situation and I believe the Municipal government can play a role in helping to advocate and address the issue. Healthy people do not choose homelessness and failing to understand and treat the reasons behind it will only serve to have people repeat the same behaviours.

Dave

I think with the min. wage not moving and so many over mortgaged there will be more homeless. I do believe we need to see more economical housing available to low wage earners. Not free housing for those too lazy to work or feel they are too good to take a low paying wage. Also, there needs to be very strict rules. You mis use or chronically damage your unit, you get a criminal charge, you don’t pay your reduced rent, etc. you are out! Housing assistance is a privilege not a right. Many landlords get taken by chronic abusers. They can’t black list these crooks. Living in a tent or on the street for a period of time might show the crooks that life is not a free ride. I think society has taught a lot of people if they cry we help. Go fund me for people too stupid to have tenant or house insurance. If people can drink and smoke they can afford insurance. We all need to get our priorities right. I have a neighbour who gets all sorts of assistance, grows dope and sells it, boot legs, drinks at the local tavern for hours and… Read more »

Troubled waters

I BELIEVE we can and should be able to as you say Black list people that can not live with in the Housing rules . Wrights are for those that earn them & keep them . You break the law or commit an illegal act or terrorize the housing complex your out . Kind of Like our own Government imposing sanctions on or choosing not to do business with countries that Violate basic human and or women’s wrights . Yes its a Privilege But that still does not address the Problem of our Govt not Keeping Earned and pre paid benefits like OAS or CPP apace with the real cost of Living . These are Basic benefits we the working stiffs were promised and all pay into with the understanding it will be their for our future . and If you were self employed you paid no you actually were Forced to pay both the Employer and Employee portions a Double whammy you might say that reduced your ability to put away retirement savings . But the self employed don’t receive any more for their efforts This was not a privilege but a requirement Its time the Canadian Govt. Looked… Read more »

Ben

” have a neighbour who gets all sorts of assistance, grows dope and sells it, boot legs, drinks at the local tavern for hours and goes to the food bank. Drives me crazy but the bleeding hearts say we need to help him. Bull!”

Do you have the same attitude to those who cheat the tax man and those who use the underground economy – if you do; fantastic, but I am suspicious that you may not.

Fred B.

So far all the comments have been about what the government.. ie. other peoples tax dollars will do about peoples choices –to live in Cobourg, and to be homeless. What ever happened to personal RESPONSIBILITY. If you cant find a job here that suits your needs, move. Everyone has parents…move home, save up and try your live over. There is never any shame in taking personal responsibility.

Troubled waters

GREAT DISCUSSION TOPIC DID YOU EVER HEAR ANY OF OUR POLITICIANS SPEAK ABOUT THE REAL PROBLEM THIS YEAR Its MONEY $$$ There is No way any one can live on roughly $1,000 per mon less if your a single male and Not much more if your a Senior Some one that has worked all their lives and paid into CPP etc . Not every one worked for double minimum wage through out their lives . Besides a lot of seniors are out living their savings and you earn nothing on your saving at the Bank over the last 15 yrs We all hear Govt. at all levels speak about affordable housing for the Last 20 yrs but they fell short Problem is still there and Growing . In days gone by our non profit groups , Churches , Lions , Rotarians Etc Etc would assist and speak out and speak up to the Govt . about these issues and fight for proper support Not so much any more if at all. There has not been a proper Cost of living increase to any individuals by our Govt . in the last 20 yrs whether it be CPP, OAS ODSP ,… Read more »

Old Sailor

There must be a lot of citizen goodwill and money available in this county for a cause like homelessness. But there appears to be very little direction from “the top” for projects like this. With the loss of Northumberland Today and very little communication from the town other than tax billings, we need some leadership from Council on this subject.

Rusty Brown

Just whose money are we talking about here?

Deborah OConnor

The County has a much bigger role in housing than this entry suggests. Aside from overall responsibility the County oversees some 350 units scattered around the county. These were formally operated in Ontario by the Province’s Housing Authorities until one Mike Harris dissolved those entities and dumped responsibility onto municipalities. I was the one and only tenant member of that local board until shortly before the big downloading. I was purged from that appointed position by order of the Province, cleaning out all the volunteers across Ontario who were not of their political brand. In addition to those units, all subsidized, the County also became responsible for about 150 non-profit units that contain a mix of subsidized and market rent units. There is one housing co-op under the County’s management. The County also provdes housing supplements that apply to a few private market landlords. Managing these units, and a waiting list close to 700 families, requires an entire department that didn’t even exist before Mike Harris took over and began downloadng many responsibilities for social services. Perhaps the County thinks it has enough housing on its plate already because efforts to create more affordable housing don’t seem to amount to… Read more »

dtoulmin

A closer look is needed on the causes. I have seen seniors become homeless due to casinos. The government takes life savings and leaves some people homeless. It is self induced however the government is helping by taking advantage and enabling them.
Once the life saving are done and their home is lost they have very little help and are faced with long waiting lists 5 years or more for housing.

Ben

Never mind the causes, we have a problem – house the homeless now and then fix the causes, but do not be tempted to filter out the homeless because of the cause.

Wally Keeler

“…do not be tempted to filter out the homeless because of the cause.”

Damn good point.

Rusty Brown

How can we realistically hope to deal with this or any other issue without first understanding the cause? If, for example, the problem is not enough basic housing because onerous government rules and reporting requirements make it not worth building, for example, then that would indicate how to proceed with a solution.

gerinator

“How can we realistically hope to deal with this or any other issue without first understanding the cause?” There are a thousand +1 causes for poverty and homelessness. Which cause should we line up and solve first?

Deborah OConnor

As an anti-poverty advocate of many years, with experience in looking at poverty across Canada from the local, provincial and federal program levels, I’ve seen it all and I’ve heard all the myths about “lazy bums” who won’t work. Dozens of reports over the years, all filled with theories and fixes, have crossed my desk. I’ve counselled hundreds of clients who needed legal help to secure their rights.

It’s simple really. The cause of poverty is inadequate income. To solve it we need to pay hgher wages, put skills training programs in place, and pay the disabled and elderly a decent allowance, one based on real-world prices. All we need is to take corporate tax rates back to the time when they were fair, and that provides the revenue to break the curse of poverty.

Kevin

Inadequate income is a cause for poverty but it is not that simple. I have worked as an apartment building manager and in community housing. Some tenants go to Bingo instead of looking for jobs. It maybe difficult to find the ideal well paid job but any job is better than wasting money at Bingo. Currently there are lots of jobs available. Unfortunately for some, more income means more takeout food, alcohol, tobacco, drugs … instead of rent.

Ben

Stop contributing to the idea that low income people are feckless spendthrifts and prefer beer to work! You said “some” to be true just how many are “some” as opposed to “a few that I personally know of”

Rob

Deborah – I have to disagree with you that inadequate income is the cause of homelessness – at least in part. If you give a homeless drug addict, who also has schizophrenia as a concurrent disorder, $2,500-$3,000 per month do you believe they will use this money to provide shelter, food and the other necessities of life OR do you think if left undiagnosed and untreated they will use this money to further spiral downwards. I think in many causes there are underlying issues which contribute to homelessness. Its only once the underlying issues are treated can the individual begin to make the changes needed to improve their life and sustain those improvements.

Kyle

There is NO magic pill to cure many mental illnesses. We once had a system to house people who could not take care of themselves and posed a threat to the public. Yes, it was improperly used in some cases but instead of closing it down totally there still will always be a percentage of people who need the institutional setting.

gerinator

Won’t argue your creds and no judgement (by me) of the poor and homeless provided or intended. However like the folks below and some above it is to simplistic to say that poverty and homelessness can be solved with money. There are to many causation variables within each of these needs. Some of your other suggestions seem reasonable. For some folks (particularly single moms) no doubt the extra cash/training would definitely help. Again though with a reducing work force, reducing opportunities to do actual work and the rising mean level for poverty, I don’t see where the cash is going to come from. Suggesting that the funding would come from a ‘fair tax’ on Corps seems unlikely given a current global political environment that seems to have very much satisfied the Corporations and the wealthy-set needs, don’t see that changing anytime soon. To depress myself even further I remind that both the Feds and the Prov are rapidly, and continue to push down these topics to the Munis level. Going for a nap now!

Rusty Brown

The first step in solving a problem is to define the problem. Meaning “correctly define” of course. If the hole in your boat is getting bigger, bailing faster is not the answer.