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PELASS presents ‘snapshot’ of homeless people in the region

High rental cost, low income, mental health or addiction issues and availability were named top barriers for 95 people in the region – 45 in Prince Edward County – to find stable or permanent housing.

Connor Dorey, Manager, Prince Edward-Lennox & Addington Social Services is to address council at Thursday’s Committee of the Whole Meeting to share information gathered in its 2021 Point-in-Time Count (PiTC) Homeless Enumeration.

“In the communities of Prince Edward Lennox & Addington, ‘Hidden or Shadow’ homelessness (someone staying at someone else’s place) is more prevalent than ‘Unsheltered’ homelessness. Therefore, connecting with all individuals in a large geographic and rural area is difficult, and not all individuals experiencing homelessness may have been captured in the 2021 PiTC .

The count, mandated by the provincial government, is designed to provide a snapshot of homelessness to inform development of services and identify emerging local needs. A ‘By Name’ list is also created to help match people to services and supports.

This area’s snapshot of Prince Edward and Lennox and Addington counties was taken Nov. 15-18 and focused on sleeping arrangements on Monday, Nov. 15. Nine community partners helped complete the surveys while others provided referrals to people on where they could participate.

The province defines homelessness as “a situation in which an individual or family is without stable, permanent housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it”.

Of the 95 in Prince Edward Lennox & Addington, 68 people who participated in the study met that definition and Dorey notes an additional 27 were identified as being homeless but did not complete the survey.

“All respondents who participated in the PiTC identified that there were financial barriers that were preventing them from finding housing,” states Dorey in his report. “This included rental amounts being too high or the individual not having enough income. 62 per cent of respondents identified that a mental health and/or addictions issue was preventing them from finding housing. Other health and disability issues were identified in 28 per cent of respondents. Housing conditions and availability of housing was also identified as a main barrier to finding housing. Other barriers were identified in the questionnaire,
which identified such barriers as; family conflict, discrimination, domestic violence, pets, and criminal history of the individual.”

Based on survey responses, 47 per cent were couch surfing, 44 per cent were in a shelter, transitional housing or a hotel on the night of Nov. 15 and nine per cent were unsheltered, stating they were staying in a vehicle, public place or were unsure.

“These findings suggest that a large percentage of respondents have a temporary roof over their head, however these arrangements lack long term security. It was also identified through the enumeration process that there were several individuals who stated that they anticipated to be homeless in the near future due to their current housing arrangement or a pending eviction.”

Dorey’s report notes 55 per cent of respondents stated they have been in the community they reported homelessness for at least two years and 45 per cent, less than two years but ‘a significant number’ of those where in the service boundaries or a neighbouring municipality which included Hastings and Northumberland, and Kingston.

The largest source of income reported was Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) at 54 per cent, followed by Ontario Works as the second most reported income source at 28 per cent.

“The most common response to the causes of the individual losing their housing was that the individual did not have enough income, with 22 per cent of respondents identifying this as a reason. In addition to the financial inability to pay for housing, it was identified that a large percentage of individuals had loss their most recent housing due to conflict with another, which included a spouse, landlord, parent, guardian, friend or other. Additionally, approximately 10 per cent of respondents stated that a Mental Health issue had resulted in their loss of housing. Respondents were also asked if their most recent housing loss was related to the COVID 19 pandemic, where 4 per cent stated “Yes”, 94 per cent stated “No”, and 2 per cent stated “They Did Not Know”.”

The report’s demographics show 67 per cent stated they were single; 17 per cent were staying with another adult (family member or friend) and 10 per cent noted they had children or dependents staying with them on Nov. 15. Six per cent stated they were staying with their partner. Information related to ages only reflects those who completed the survey.

“The 26 to 45 age group had the highest percentage of respondents and highest representation of individuals reporting to be unsheltered. Five per cent of individuals who participated in the PiTC are considered seniors, and all seniors were staying in a Transitional Housing unit in Lennox & Addington at the time of the survey,” the report states, adding 21 per cent identified as Indigenous or having Indigenous ancestry.

The survey shows 53 per cent identified as male; 44 per cent as female and three per cent as other (trans-gender women and two-spirit).

Of the 68 surveys completed, 61 chose to be added to the local ‘By Name’ list. They all received a $20 Tim Hortons gift card for completing the PiTC questionnaire.

The By Name List is provided to PELASS committee, member municipality councils, and local service agencies when appropriate, to assist in planning discussions, priority setting and to improve the overall homelessness service system.

PELASS will use data captured to understand how effective local policies have been. In addition to future enumerations, PELASS will use the local By Name to connect with individuals experiencing homelessness and to better understand the homelessness service system.

Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting also includes a municipal report ‘Affordable Housing – Secondary Suite Subsidies’ asking council to support a PELASS program with $200,000 to help pilot a homeowner subsidy program to encourage the development of secondary suites as long-term rentals.

Council to examine subsidy program to encourage renting of secondary suites long-term

Two deputations are also speaking to housing – one regarding tiny homes and inlaw suites, the other, a repeat visit from Steve Van Dusen who requires the County’s to altar its two-year moratorium on Official Plan amendments to allow him to proceed with applications to build a rural housing development.

Committee of the Whole will also see a report from development services that recommends changes to remove minimum dwelling unit size requirements to permit smaller homes and add flexibility to existing residential zoning standards to promote affordable housing.

Zoning changes suggested to help address housing issues

Councillor Kate MacNaughton is seeking support to request action related to “renovictions” and other bad faith evictions including false ‘personal use’ evictions.

She wants council to request the provincial government extend rent control to all tenancies, including those occupied after November 2018, which are currently exempt from rent control restrictions; and to reinstate a rental increase frees for a further six months, or until the effects of the pandemic have stabilized.

Committee of the Whole meets online Thursday, at 1 p.m.

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