Hope Lee, manager of human services–housing, shared a report with council laying out in stark terms the homelessness crisis in Kawartha Lakes, and how it has been affected by the pandemic.
She also shared how a re-imagination of A Place Called Home, the area’s only homeless shelter, might positively impact the number of beds available for those who have nowhere to go.
Lee began by sharing that in 2019 only nine per cent of all homeless people in Kawartha Lakes were placed by the city in hotels as shared space at facilities like A Place Called Home was available.
With the arrival of the pandemic A Place Called Home with shared bathrooms and dining quarters had problems meeting meet public health and safety guidelines. In 2020, the number of people being housed in hotels reached 52 per cent of all the homeless people the city was seeing.
The problem was further exacerbated by those who used to “couch-surf” from one apartment to the next who all of sudden were no longer welcomed by friends or acquaintances because of COVID. In 2019, 53 per cent of the homeless found temporary housing through couch-surfing. In 2020, that number was down to 31 per cent putting more pressure on already scarce housing.
“Sixty one households are currently in hotels,” Lee shared, “with 33 households staying at one hotel in Lindsay.”
“There are so many households at that hotel that A Place Called Home has set up a service trailer to assist as they can onsite,” Lee continued.
Lee said there are “significant problems” finding people places to live, especially after the homeless shelter has been limited to only 11 beds to ensure social distancing. She believes she has a plan to deal with the new realities of homelessness in the age of COVID and it involves “re-vitalizing” A Place Called Home.
The city has recently received $1.75 million to spend on issues involving homelessness. Lee believes the best investment for that money is a complete re-thinking of the building.
Lee put forward a plan that calls for the demolition of the front administrative building that currently sits on the Lindsay Street property. The building will be replaced with a two storey 18-19 bed shelter where each person has an individual space and their own washroom.
With a cost of $80 a night in a shelter vs. $155 a night for a local hotel, Lee argues the need for a better and improved non-profit shelter makes financial sense for everyone involved.
The two buildings that sit on the back of the property are going to be converted into additional units, some of which might be used for geared-to-income rentals.
“A Place Called Home is supportive of this plan,” Lee shared, “but it must be completed before December 31, 2021 because provincial and federal money will disappear.”
“We are looking at easier to build modular construction because the timeline is so short,” Lee told councillors. “We will know if we qualify for the additional funding we need for this project by late October.”