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

CK looks ahead to end chronic homelessness

Chatham-Kent is one of several communities across the country aiming to reduce chronic homelessness by decreasing pressure on shelters and ensuring more people are able to support themselves.

The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) recently launched a new campaign called “Built for Zero Canada” after exceeding their goal on the “20,000 Homes Campaign”, which ended up housing 21,254 people.

Chatham-Kent joined the “20,000 Homes Campaign” in March of 2018, and have housed 78 people over the past year.

“We’ve only been involved over the past year, in that time though we have ramped up really quickly,” said Polly Smith, director of employment and social services for the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.

Smith also said tackling chronic homelessness is a community effort which involves several partners.

Homelessness can mean people who bounce around from people’s couches or can mean people who need to sleep in shelters. But in recent years, Smith said the issue has become more visible in Chatham-Kent.

“What we really run into is people [having] more complex needs… when they have a serious mental illness, when they have addictions and they need more help, housing then becomes unattainable without a lot of interventions,” she said.

Smith said the goal is to first house people who need it and then provide services that will keep them housed and employed.

“We want no homelessness and what this means is people waiting,” she said. “We know that people are going to be situationally and temporarily homeless and those can be solved more quickly but chronically homeless is really so dangerous to people’s health.”

In addition to health concerns, Smith adds that chronic homelessness can be costly.

“Shelters are very expensive and they are where homeless people go,” said Smith. “They also go to hospitals and require medical interventions, there may be police involvement, all of those services are not solving the problem and they’re very expensive.”

According to a media release sent from the municipality, there are certain elements within the “Built for Zero Canada” campaign that are also part of Canada’s new homelessness strategy, which comes into effect in April.

For those within Chatham-Kent who need assistance, information on social services can be found by clicking here, or by calling 519-351-8573.