Various efforts, including a nine-unit women’s shelter, are slated to house people experiencing homelessness following tonight’s unanimous decision of Greater Sudbury city council.
The shelter will be within three kilometres of downtown and will, according to a report by city shelters and homelessness co-ordinator Gail Spencer, “allow for the potential diversion of women from 200 Larch Street and would build on the unique low barrier service needs of females experiencing homelessness.”
The 200 Larch Street address in question houses the Off The Street Emergency Shelter.
The new shelter will be operated by a non-profit service provider, which contacted city staff to express interest in operating the facility. It will cost an estimated $40,000 to $50,000 per month, pending it operates without a security detail in place.
Other efforts include:
- Investing $100,000 toward flex funds, which support people wishing to relocate to return to their home communities for family reunification, or for situations that cannot be easily resolved by existing funding sources.
- Spending $200,000 toward a master lease to a private landlord for up to 20 private units that can be assigned as housing for existing housing support programs.
- The renovation of 10 two-bedroom social housing units into 20 one-bedroom units to meet demands, at a cost of approximately $80,000. This is a continuation of an existing effort that began in October and saw 20 units undergo this same conversion, most of which are already online.
Various other efforts, such as using motels as bridge housing while people wait to get into housing units and the allocation of housing allowances in the Housing First program to meet affordability gaps, will continue.
These solutions toward housing people experiencing homelessness during the winter came as a result of last month’s push by city council for city administration to come up with some solutions.
At the time, Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc joined Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan in proposing the creation of an alternative encampment at the downtown Energy Court site as a temporary measure to include “ice fishing hut tents, cleaning drinking water, access to hygiene/sanitation facilities and waste management.”
City council rejected this proposal in lieu of indoor options drafted by city staff and homelessness consultant Iain De Jong, which were presented at tonight’s meeting.
As of Monday, city staff estimated the Memorial Park encampment population at 50 and those residing outdoors of the nearby 199 Larch St. address at approximately 25.
In total, they estimate the number of people living in encampment sites around the city to be approximately 90, which is a significant improvement from the 165 reported on Oct. 19.
“We have not housed the majority of those individuals. They have found other solutions and we are certainly open to working with individuals to find other solutions,” city director of social services Tyler Campbell said, adding that the flex fund program might help pay for solutions.
“The hardest data we have is there are 45 people in an unsheltered situation who are interested in a housing solution, and the others at this point are not interested in housing or shelter,” De Jong told city council.
While thankful for the efforts of city staff, Leduc expressed his disappointment with the fact that people are still sleeping outside in the cold.
“The community is looking at us to try and get as many people out of Memorial Park, out of the tents, and I just feel personally that I’ve failed them, and I apologize to the community,” he said.
Hampering efforts to a degree are eight unfilled Housing First case manager positions, which Campbell said will translate into support for 64 to 80 people once filled.
Despite staff burnout and some of the efforts being proposed taking more time to complete than others, Campbell said that the majority of their proposed actions would be finalized or well on their way to implementation by January.
During this time, the city will also be reaching out to other service providers to bring their solutions to them, with their flex fund program available to pay for some efforts.
The homelessness efforts being undertaken are being funded within the existing city budget, which includes funds from the Provincial Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative and the Federal Reaching Home fund.
City administration is expected to provide another update on their progress in tackling homelessness in Greater Sudbury at the next city council meeting, scheduled for Dec. 14.
As a result of tonight’s lengthy debate on both homelessness and recreational vehicle dump sites, the city’s elected officials did not complete the meeting’s agenda.
On the dump sites issue, city council resolved to permanently close recreational vehicle dump sites at the Valley East and Chelmsford wastewater treatment sites and to keep the site at the Sudbury wastewater treatment plant open. Sudbury.com will report additional details on this decision in a separate article to be published soon.
After these lengthy debates, city council voted against extending the meeting beyond three hours.
The following city councillors voted against the extension: Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc, Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti, Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini, Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier, Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo, Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer, Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh.
The following city councillors voted in favour of extending the meeting: Ward 10 Coun. Ferm Cormier, Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann, Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland, Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre and Mayor Brian Bigger.
With the agenda cut short, the following items are among those to carry forward into the next city council meeting:
- An anti-Kingsway Entertainment District petition will be presented by a group of citizens.
- Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc’s motion seeking an independent review of mayor and councillor remuneration levels.
- Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre and Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti’s motion requesting staff draft a social media policy for members of council and local boards.
- An update on city integrity commissioner Robert Swayze’s activities.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.