At Cobourg Council’s Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting on Tuesday 21 February, there were seven delegations about the proposal to put “Sleeping Cabins” in the parking lot of the Memorial Arena on Furnace Street. Six were in favour and one presented a petition of 36 nearby residents who were against the idea. Not all of those in favour were from Cobourg – Rob Horgan was originally from Durham but said he “needed a place to go” and even the representative from the “Northumberland Sleeping Cabin Collective” (NSCC), Alastair McKeating, was from Port Hope. Several people spoke emotionally about how homelessness was bad and in fact was a crisis. They were short on what to do about the crisis other than support the NSCC 6 month trial although many wanted a “task force” to be established.
The NSCC representative, Alastair McKeating, said that they were reluctant to spend money on required studies until they believed a “licence” would be approved but he conceded that more community consultation was needed.
After considerable discussion, there were two motions passed dealing with the subject:
- Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty moved a long motion that declared that homelessness is a crisis (later clarified: as distinct from an emergency) and that the Town does not have the resources so will be relying on the County. This declaration to be sent to the Province asking for support. Action on this motion was deferred to next week’s regular Council meeting to allow better wording to be found (Councillor Miriam Mutton will work with Nicole on this).
- Nicole also moved for a deferral of action on the application to allow sleeping cabins on Furnace Street to the April 3 CoW meeting to give NSCC and Green Wood Coalition time to “conduct a community consultation with local area residents, Cobourg Police, Cobourg Fire, Northumberland County and other partner agencies”. The motion included a request for a clear governance plan for NSCC.
After the delegations but before Council discussed delegation actions, Mayor Cleveland spoke about what the County was doing on the matter.
- The County already has a task force for this and it has been working on it for some years.
- Mayor Cleveland has been appointed to the County’s Community Safety and Well-Being Collaborative Committee. This committee was Provincially mandated to produce a Community Safety and Well-Being Plan – this was done in 2021. One of its four priorities was Homelessness and Affordability (see link below to County page – see also link to Cobourg Internet page with County information).
- On Tuesday 21st, the “Homelessness System Review” was updated and will be presented before May 2023 at the County’s Social Services Committee.
- In the 2023 County budget, $300K was approved to fast track whatever was decided in the “Homelessness System Review”. Additional recommendations will be funded from the 2024 budget.
- The emergency is already well-known, documented and being addressed.
So at the risk of over-simplifying, let me summarize:
- The County is already working on the crisis of homelessness and has a task force. Actions are planned for this year and next.
- Council wants the group proposing Sleeping Cabins to consult the public to a greater extent before approving use of the Memorial Arena Parking Lot. Maybe another location would be better? No other specific location has been mentioned.
Addendum – 27 February 2023
Northumberland County has announced that they are buying a 22 unit rental property in Colborne to provide affordable Housing. The announcement includes updates on other actions being taken to increase their stock of affordable rental units.
Download Announcement here. (re-formatted from original but unedited).
- Cabins proposed to help homelessness – 16 December 2022
- Original proposal by NSCC
- NSCC Update to Proposal as of 21 February 2023
- Information about County Council – Cobourg Internet page about County – including Members, committees etc.
- County Community Safety and Well Being – web page