District plans to end homelessness
PARRY SOUND - Being homeless could soon be a thing of the past.
The District of Parry Sound Social Services Administration Board (PSDSSAB) announced Friday that it is now developing a long-term plan to address homelessness. Over the next few months, the planning team will be identifying the gaps that need to be filled and creating a strategy.
Rick Zanussi, councillor with the Township of The Archipelago and chair of the PSDSSAB, said the board will be consulting with the different communities to develop the strategy.
“The Ontario Housing Services Act requires all municipalities in the province to develop, by the end of this year, a 10-year plan to end homelessness and develop affordable housing and supports for those with inadequate housing,” said Zanussi.
While the strategy is being developed, the board will be meeting with everyone from service agencies to the general public. In particular, the board is inviting those currently living in inadequate housing or who are at-risk of homelessness to participate in the planning process.
Janet Patterson, CAO of the PSDSSAB, said people without homes tend to be less visible in communities like Parry Sound, but they are there.
“In rural areas, homelessness often looks very different. Homelessness is a more visible issue in larger urban centres, but in and around Ontario much less work has been done regarding homelessness in rural areas and northern communities,” Patterson said.
In cities like Toronto, homeless people are often highly visible as panhandlers and individuals sleeping around the city. In smaller towns, homeless people are generally hidden from view.
“Often, the homeless are living in substandard housing or they’re bunking with family and friends. Just because we don’t see people on the street it doesn’t mean there isn’t a homelessness issue here,” said Patterson.
In many ways, the challenges of homelessness are made worse in northern communities. Smaller communities often lack affordable housing options and have less available support services for people with special needs.
Community input will be generated through surveys, focus groups, interviews and public meetings which will be announced in the near future.
“A shared responsibility among partners has been outlined that includes federal provincial as well as not for profits so the act requires us, who is a municipal services manager, to undertake this plan, and the plan will have an assessment of the current and future needs within our district. It will have objectives and targets relating to housing needs,” Patterson said.
The plan is expected to be unveiled late this year.