File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Bialasiewicz

CK Officials Document Details Of Local Homelessness

Municipal staff have a snapshot of what homelessness looks like in Chatham-Kent and are now one step closer to tackling the issue head-on.

The municipality held a Registry Week initiative from April 9 to April 14, to survey the number of people considered homeless and find out their personal details.

As stated in a media release sent from the municipality, 258 people were surveyed, 74 of which were homeless during Registry Week. The average age of those without a permanent address was 38 years old. The survey also showed that 54% of respondents identified as male, while 32% identified as female.

Chantal Perry, program manager of employment and social services, says she doesn’t find the numbers surprising.

“Those numbers could vary throughout the year,” she says. “They could be higher in the winter, they could be lower in the summer. But it gives us a baseline that we can use over time to track our progress in ending homelessness.”

Perry says the findings help to identify the programs and services needed, because it’s not enough to find someone a home but additional help is needed.

“It’s not enough to give people with health issues, addictions, or mental health issues a home, you need to put supports in place to ensure that they work on keeping that housing stable,” she says.

“We know by name who’s homeless here in Chatham-Kent so we’re going to use that information, we’re going to reach out to people — especially those with really high needs.”

Perry says at the moment, many of the community’s supportive housing programs are full. However, in the long-term, she says the information will help in revisions to the housing and homelessness plan.

The findings in April are considered preliminary; further results will be released June 13 at a public information forum in Chatham at the John D Bradley Convention Centre. A more details report is expected to be released in October.

“By October we’re going to have a more fulsome analytic report done that’s going to include some system changes and program recommendations based on the information we learned from our Registry Week,” she says.

In terms of future options, the federal government made an announcement Monday regarding changes to its homelessness program. About $2.1-billion has been dedicated to the revamped program over the next decade. Eligible cities will be able to access these funds.

“[The Reaching Home program] outlined three requirements that communities must have to be eligible for funding in 2019,” she says. “That includes reliable outcome based on programming, coordinated access systems, and the use of real-time data with by name lists; and Chatham-Kent has all of those things.”

Perry says the municipality would be able to make an application for federal funding in October and hopefully hear back in December or January of 2019.