At their Tuesday, Dec. 12 meeting, Brockville City Council opened the night’s discussion with a presentation from Alison Tutak, director of community and social services for the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville. Tutak’s presentation detailed the recent updates and progress in relation to the various homeless initiatives taking place in the counties.
The facts and figures submitted to council by Tutak identified that while there undoubtedly has been some progress made in alleviating the issue of homelessness in Brockville and the surrounding areas since October 2021, ultimately, the crisis is persisting.
In what seemed to be an attempt to assuage the concern and frustration from Brockville residents about homelessness in their city, Mayor Matt Wren prefaced the discussion by reminding residents that the United Counties is the designated service provider for social services and social housing.
“I say this not to pass the buck but the point is, funding for homelessness is provided by the province of Ontario and distributed through the designated service providers which in our case is the Counties, and not the city,” Wren explained.
“However, we do have a role to play,” Wren continued. “We partner with the Counties to provide this important support to our residents.”
Tutak noted that “we did receive some additional funds this year through the ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Those funds have really enabled us to do quite a bit of new work and work that we haven’t previously done, and fund some programs and services we haven’t previously funded. “
Tutak discussed the current ‘By Name List’. This is a list of all known people experiencing homelessness within a given community.
“Our current number right now in Leeds and Grenville is 106, [which means we have] identified 106 people living in Leeds and Grenville that are currently actively homeless, meaning that they have been homeless for more than a two week period.”
Tutak then shared one of the brighter developments from the presentation, stating “we have assisted in helping to house over 240 individuals or families since October 2021. On average, we are housing approximately 10 people each month, that may be through our interior workspace managers, or our direct housing support workers that we have on staff.”
However, while significant changes are being made in the lives of many homeless people, Tutak acknowledged that they are still seeing frequent accumulation in the numbers.
“The unfortunate statistic that we discussed early in the spring is that we have one in three people, usually within four months, coming back into homelessness,” said Tutak, leading her to declare that “reducing that recidivism rate is one of our top priorities.”
She went on to explain that the Counties have “entered into an agreement this year with the Lanark, Leeds, and Grenville (LLG) Addictions and Mental Health to provide services to 20 individuals who require high intensity supports.
The program is designed so the Counties find the available housing within the community, and the LLG Mental Health provides the high intensity support.
Leeds and Grenville was recently acknowledged in the Canadian Life and Homelessness newsletter for being a community that has sustained a three month reduction in our number of chronic homeless, Tutak noted. She said that while this three month reduction is a small win, “we do believe that this is directly attributable to the work that we’re doing with supportive housing.”
Tutak then elaborated on some of the programs her team is currently funding and what impacts they’ve seen within the community.
“The Homelessness Prevention Program is the title of the funds that we receive from the ministry, approximately $3.1 million is what is received annually. And we have this commitment until 2025.”
She added that“the joint Services Committee has committed $600,000 of the $3.1 million towards a small capital project, whichthey hope to implement for winter 2025.
Tutak also discussed the 5 short-term stay shelter units in Brockville and Prescott.
“If somebody all of a sudden found themselves without housing, we would let them stay in one of these units for a period of 21 days while they kind of got things together, and were able to find more permanent housing arrangements,“ she explained.
In addition to the shelter units, Tutak also mentioned the Homelessness Prevention Benefit, saying “this is not just available to clients of interior works or ODSP. This is available to anyone in the community, depending upon their income levels.”
Tutak added that the Counties will be funding Addictions and Mental Health to have a drop-in site from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at their location on Front Street; it will be open all hours that the Cooperative Care Center (CCC) is not open, including weekends, beginning Dec. 15th, 2023 and running until March 15, 2024,
“We’re very excited that we will have an option for folks to attend when the CCC is not opened,” Tutak said.