It's not a hand out or a hand up. It's a hug around Simcoe County's most vulnerable and desperate residents.
That's how Major Doug Lewis, executive director at the Salvation Army, describes a funding announcement from the provincial government this morning.
"We are not our brother's keeper. We are our brothers sisters and brothers," he concluded.
A $14.5 million cash injection over the next two years will benefit the Salvation Army, Youth Haven, Elizabeth Fry Society, David Busby Centre and Barrie's Out of the Cold program, to name a few agencies.
"The work of building stronger communities begins at home," said Chris Ballard, Minister of Housing and Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy.
“Too many Ontarians are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.”
The Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) supports the government's bold goal of ending homelessness in Ontario by 2025.
Ballard was in Barrie to announce additional funding for the initiative, targeting emergency financial assistance to prevent eviction, long-term and transitional housing, and integrated supportive housing to help people with specific needs access housing.
Across Simcoe County, CHPI is credited with:
- lifting 30,000 individuals and families off the street
- enabling 100,000 "at risk" individuals to hold onto their homes
Homelessness is a hot topic for municipal governments, the province and social service agencies across the province. Discussions often centre around the lack of inventory and strategies to encourage developers to build affordable units into their developments.
Ballard says it is important for local communities to "take an individualized approach" to solving the problem of homelessness, which he called "one of the greatest challenges we face in Ontario."
The County of Simcoe is mandated to manage programs across the region including the City of Barrie, and will ultimately decide how the new funding is shared.
Mike Burkett, mayor of Severn Township says the 10-year affordable housing target is to create 2,685 new units by 2024. In the City of Barrie, the target number is 840.
"Stable, affordable housing is the only cure for homelessness," he said.