Lack of affordable housing fuels homeless crisis

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

A lack of affordable housing in Sarnia-Lambton is contributing to an influx of people using the Inn of the Good Shepherd’s homeless shelter.

The facility is housing the maximum of 25 people each night compared to 15 or 16 just a year ago.

Manager Myles Vanni said community success stories, including an increased number of Lambton College students, are taking affordable housing away.

“A thousand or so students need beds and apartments, even there there’s not enough,” said Vanni. “There are cases where there’s six or eight students in a three bedroom house because there’s not availability. With the construction projects pending, it’s creating a lot of speculation so that existing apartment units are being taken offline to be renovated and upgraded and put back on the market at a much higher rent. The average rent is being increased by $100 or $150 for a one bedroom apartment and there’s less of them available.”

Vanni said a lot of homeless people are being forced to find shelter in stairwells, the hospital emergency department, or building entrance ways.

He said the city has undertaken a bylaw review to possibly loosen restrictions on granny flats or basement apartments.

A number of agencies are working together to look at other alternatives including opening a place with some crash beds to deal with the immediate need.