Grey County moves to address homelessness
A housing enumeration study in Grey County last October found 142 individuals were experiencing homelessness. A report outlining the findings was shared with Grey County Council on January 13, 2022.
74 were determined to be chronically homeless, defined as living without safe, permanent housing for more than six months. And 27 of those individuals indicated they were unsheltered. The one-day study was completed on October 18, 2021 in partnership with Bruce County and frontline service providers across the two counties.
“Demand for housing services and short-term emergency shelter has increased in recent years. The enumeration study is helpful in identifying those who are in the greatest need for support,” said Josh Gibson, housing programs manager. “By creating a By-Name List we can connect people with services and work towards housing placement.”
A By-Name List is a real-time tool to support those experiencing homelessness. Frontline services have coordinated access to the list, connecting individuals with appropriate supports and housing programs. Individuals can be added to the list through one common entry point regardless of which frontline service agency they are going to for support.
“The Homelessness Response Steering Committee is a collaborative group of frontline services in Grey and Bruce counties. Individuals on the By-Name List will have their unique needs evaluated and will be assigned a priority for housing placement,” said Gibson. “Using vacancy matching, appropriate housing can be offered to priority individuals. Additional services such as transitional housing support may be offered to help the individual successfully transition to independent living.”
Individuals with three morbidities are considered at a greater risk of experiencing chronic homelessness. Morbidities include medical/ physical health issues, mental physical health concerns, or substance misuse. Indigenous homelessness is also a priority and is defined separately to include cultural and spiritual needs. Indigenous peoples were over-represented in the enumeration study with 22 individuals identifying as Indigenous.
Once the By-Name List is implemented, one in ten units of subsidized housing that become available will be offered to a priority individual. Previously Grey County’s housing waitlist operated on a first come, first served basis only offering priority placement for victims of domestic abuse or human trafficking.
“Everyone needs a safe and affordable place to call home,” said Grey County Warden Selwyn ‘Buck Hicks’. “Our goal in Grey County is to achieve functional zero for homelessness and to do this we need to reduce the number of people on our By-Name List and increase the amount of subsidized housing that is available to meet the demand in our community.”
Grey County operates 997 units of subsidized housing and supports 476 additional units of non-profit housing across the County. In addition, Grey County is supporting a number of affordable housing builds that will increase the available housing stock in our region over the next couple of years. Upcoming projects include an additional 60 apartment units at Odawa Heights in Owen Sound and a commitment of $3 million to support Lutheran Social Services with a 32-bed affordable housing build for seniors in Owen Sound. Grey County is also in the process of purchasing a building in Owen Sound to create 12 units of supportive housing. An additional 11 units of supportive housing are also ready for occupancy through non-profit operators.
“We are making progress but more needs to be done to create housing in Grey County,” added Warden Hicks.
Long-term housing is key to solving chronic homelessness, but Emergency Housing is available to support those with no shelter.
“Emergency short-term shelter is available 24 hours a day for those in need of more immediate assistance,” explains Gibson. “Individuals can connect with services any time by calling 2-1-1. Clients will be arranged short-term shelter as part of a long-term housing plan. Even in the middle of the night, support is available.”