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Local workers pleased with Ontario’s ambitious plan to end to homelessness

By Sean McIntosh [1]

BELLEVILLE – Ontario has committed itself to ending chronic homelessness in the next 10 years, a goal that one local frontline worker calls attainable – but not easily.

The approach to ending homelessness cannot be a one-size-fits-all plan, said Abby Mills, director of community and family services at the Salvation Army in Belleville.

“I think it’s doable, not necessarily easy, but it is doable,” Mills told QNet News. “If that is something that everyone is working towards, then it’s much more likely to happen.”

In this area, there is a problem with both chronic homelessness and “precariously housed” people, according to Mills.

There are fewer of the absolutely homeless, she said, though the Salvation Army does see them from time to time.

“I do know of a few men, particularly this summer, who lived in tents around the city area because they had nowhere else to go.”

More common is the situation where people are precariously housed, she said – that is, people who have to couch surf – move from place to place – to have a roof over their head at night.

Mills said there are housing options for the homeless in this area. People can get help through the Hastings Housing Resource Centre [2] or Hastings County Social Services [3], where there is a worker who deals with emergency housing. The Belleville Red Cross [4] can also help.

Sandy Sidsworth, executive director of the Hastings and Prince Edward branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association [5], said the organization houses homeless people in the Quinte area, but only has so much space.

“We have three specific programs and houses dedicated to individuals directly in off the street,” she said. “We’re full.”

There’s still work that needs to be done with the government’s plan, Sidsworth said.

“I think it’s a great, great start,” she said. But “I was disappointed not to see housing stock and availability (in the plan). A really strong housing-first approach means you have available, affordable housing for those coming in off the street.”

But all discussion of the issue of homelessness is important, according to Sidsworth.

The provincial government will provide $10 million from its Local Poverty Reduction Fund [6] over the next two years toward the cause.

An expert advisory panel, [7] which was established in January, provided advice to the government on how to end homelessness.