Making progress on housing the homeless ]
The City of Kawartha Lakes, which is the social services provider for Haliburton County, is making inroads when it comes to housing the community’s homeless.
Jocelyn Blazey, homelessness system resource co-ordinator for the city, delivered a report to county councillors during their Sept. 26 meeting.
Since the county and city joined the 20,000 Homes Campaign – an effort to eradicate homelessness in Canada – in 2016, Blazey said the effort has housed 60 people in the two municipalities, far outpacing the goal of 24 within two years.
A survey issued this spring was completed by 75 individuals facing homelessness, with 29 of those surveys completed by people in Haliburton County. Of those 29, nearly 80 per cent were in need of permanent, supportive housing. The youngest survey respondent was 17 years old, the oldest 79.
The average timespan of homelessness for those who filled out the survey was one and a half years for individuals and three years for families.
In the county, 61 per cent of respondents indicated they had been homeless for at least six months in the past year, an amount of time that Blazey explained meets the definition of chronic homelessness.
As for sleeping, 24 per cent of county residents indicated they use shelters while 48 per cent couch surf, making them part of what is known as the “hidden homeless” – people who are not physically out on the street, but have no home of their own.
“Often, they are staying with their friends and family,” Blazey said. “Often, they don’t consider themselves homeless.”
The estimated total ER, ambulance and hospital costs for the group of survey respondents was more than $430,000 for the year, with nearly $245,000 of that, or 79 per cent, generated by a small group of frequent users of the health-care system.
“Fifty-seven per cent of that total cost was a small number of people using the services over and over again,” Blazey said.
The cost of homelessness in Canada is an estimated $7 billion a year.
The city continues to build its capacity to house homeless people in the area and a study that is a joint effort between Trent University and A Place Called Home in Lindsay is measuring the effects of services by studying one group of people who are connected to case managers, and one group of people who aren’t.
New technology is also allowing the city to keep track of the area’s homeless population more effectively.
“It’s real-time data,” Blazey said, adding there are currently 100 people on the waiting list. “It’s not ‘we think,’ it’s not, ‘three months ago we had this number,’ it’s right now.”
Blazey said she believed that it’s totally possible for the city and county to reach a goal of zero chronically homeless people.