Advocates for the homeless tell Sudbury City Council the need is urgent

Sudbury City Council held a special meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the homelessness crisis in the city.

Dozens of service providers had an opportunity to share their concerns and possible solutions at the virtual meeting. 

Many expressed concern that the pandemic is causing an already dire problem to get worse. 

Organization leaders say it puts a spotlight on the inequities that exist in our community as the already vulnerable population continues to suffer.

One message was clear, more immediate places to shelter those on the streets are needed.

Ashley Grant is the program service manager at the Salvation Army’s Cedar Place. It is a 24 hour woman and family homeless shelter. She says she hears from her clients about the same barriers they face every single day. 

Grant says those on ODSP or Ontario Works get told all the time by landlords that they won’t take them. “They keep getting the door shut on them and they don’t know where to turn to.” 

Grant says someone on Ontario Works receives $700 a month and most one bedroom apartments are over $800. The geared to income housing waiting list is a year long and just to get on a list is also a complicated application process.

She says they need more one room rentals that are between $500 and $600.

We need to end the stigma– Ashley Grant

The application for an apartment is also an onerous process, and for people without access to phone or Internet, it becomes impossible, says Grant.

 “We are all people and we all deserve the same basic human rights.”

Aaron St. Pierre spoke about the issue of racism as a contributing factor to homelessness. He is with the Native People of Sudbury Development Corporation.

He says a recent indigenous homelessness study showed that despite the fact that indigenous people make up 9.4 percent of the population, they make up 42 percent of the homeless population.

He agrees that the red tape that homeless people have to deal with in order to receive any assistance is an incredible barrier. He wants the city to help end the stigma of homelessness and to educate the community on what people have to deal with.

Many people who are homeless are also part of the criminalized population, says Melanie Johncox. She teaches literacy and basic skills at the Sudbury District Jail.

She says finding a place to live with a criminal record is a big struggle.

Reintegration is very difficult, says Johncox. She says they walk out the door with the clothes they had when they came in and if they were homeless they go right back to that.

One of her students who will be released shortly told her the harsh reality of his situation. “Both parents have passed, he grew up in a very large number of foster homes, he’s separate from his siblings. He has nothing, he has no home, he has no belongings When he gets out, the only way that he is going to meet his basic needs is probably selling drugs.”

Johncox says she hands out mitts and necessities on a regular basis and knows that 22 of her past students are on the streets right now. 

She wants the city to push for transitional housing, a halfway house, so they can spend the last few months of their sentence getting support and finding housing and learning how to reintegrate into society.

Another special virtual city council meeting will be held Thursday night. People with lived experiences of homelessness have been invited to share their stories and suggestions to help deal with the crisis.

The city is also looking for any public input on the topic. You can share your thoughts and comments on their website.

 

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