Every dime of an $11.6-million boost for the local social services board will help prevent or end homelessness locally, says the CAO.
The additional provincial funding for the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board (CDSSAB) is over three years. For 2023-24, it brings the agency's Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) funding to over $6 million. Timmins MPP George Pirie was in town this morning for the announcement.
The funding is versatile, which allows the CDSSAB to move cash between different services as well as capital projects, said CDSSAB CAO Brian Marks.
Everything from emergency shelter services — like Living Space — to transitional housing, eviction prevention, utility arrears, food security programs and more are on the table.
"Our allocation really is not significant enough to engage in large-scale capital projects, which is pretty much needed when you have 50 people per night who are homeless. However, there are some things we can do for particularly vulnerable people like purchasing four-plexes, and six-plexes and being able to purpose those for high-need people and then be able to move them to sustained housing thereafter," he said.
CDSSAB's goal is to end homelessness by 2025.
All service providers accessing the new funding must show how the funds will help lead to that goal, said Marks.
How much is needed to meet the goal of ending homelessness?
“Right now I’m going to say we can do it with what we have, but when we do end it by 2025 that’s not to say that there still isn’t a pipeline of people who have to come to Timmins for services that will remain at risk," he said.
Across Canada, Marks said there are communities like Timmins where people are forced to move for employment, education, healthcare, among others.
"When people are forced to relocate from their homes for those services, it’s not an easy transition at times. We need to make sure that we provide the supports not only in these communities, but also in the communities that they’re coming from to make sure that they have access to the supports that can always prevent them from being homeless,” he said.
When Pirie was serving as mayor, he recognized how complex the homeless file is in Timmins and across the country.
“This isn’t going to go away any time soon. Everybody recognizes under our overpass there’s that chained-in section there. So we’re reminded every single day how critical this problem is. I want to say that we tackled this with great urgency,” he said.
The area Pirie referenced is where the city cleared an encampment in the fall. The section's been fenced in so people can no longer sleep under the overpass along the main road through town.
Encampments don't just happen where people can see them. Those, said Marks, are just the ones people complain about.
"For decades we’ve had encampments at the graveyard, in the southern rural areas of the city, across Highway 655 — so we don’t pretend that just because we end encampments where people can see them that that actually means we are ending homelessness. Homelessness exists for the most part I would suggest in Northern Ontario in an invisible fashion. Much of what we invest in outreach will be targeted to those invisible areas, but also to couch surfing to end homelessness where people don’t see it. Every dime we spend on outreach services will lead to our goal of ending homelessness,” he said.