Integrated care hub for people experiencing homelessness coming to Lindsay

By Kirk Winter

It is estimated that there are at least 160 unhoused people in the combined municipality, with a core of 45-50 people periodically experiencing unsheltered homelessness by staying outside, or in vehicles, as of August 2023. File photo.

Kawartha Lakes Council has approved a full-time facility for assisting people who are homeless and those living on the street.

Partially funded by the municipality, it will open in a central location in Lindsay, possibly before the end of 2023.

Manager of housing for Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton, Michelle Corley, and Superintendent of Community Paramedics, Autumn Campbell, spearheaded the presentation to council. They told councillors and senior staff that based on the success of a four-hour-a-week pilot mobile care hub currently operating, it is time for the city to move forward and approve a hub that will have a permanent site and much more predictable hours.

The project will require an additional $700,000 in city money for 2023-2024, plus a regular yearly subsidy from the municipality as part of the Housing Services annual budget. It is believed the new site will provide those who are currently homeless with the services they are not currently getting in a reliable and timely manner.

People Experiencing Homelessness

Corley and her group, in an additional study presented to council, believe that there are at least 160 unhoused people in the combined municipality, with a core of 45-50 people periodically experiencing unsheltered homelessness by staying outside, or in vehicles, as of August 2023.

City housing agency statistics suggest that there are likely another 30 or so individuals experiencing homelessness who have not officially come to the attention of agencies trying to help because these residents have not connected with any city services so far.

Corley and her researchers report that 78 percent are single adults. There are also a disproportionately high number of those who identify as being Indigenous, or on the LGTBQIA2S spectrum. One in five are pet owners, pushing the need for pet-friendly shelter beds which are now only becoming a reality as research supports that “psychological well-being for the homeless are improved for those who have pets.”

The report also states that a number of these individuals, who are now homeless, were previously couch surfing with friends who lived in city housing at 68 Lindsay Street North or 111 William Street North. Because of new security protocols at both establishments, they are no longer welcome.

Corley said in the study the goal of those who assist these individuals is to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. Corley told council that the homeless have been significantly impacted by the pandemic and have trouble getting their basic needs met.

The Pilot Project

The four-hour-a-week pilot program that began in February of 2023 has seen over 800 people and provides a low barrier support program that features staff and funding from Ross Memorial Hospital (RMH), the John Howard Society, city housing and the paramedics. These divergent groups work cooperatively to provide the homeless one stop shopping for the many needs they may have from nutrition to medical and mental health care assistance. The program currently rotates weekly using three different sites: A Place Called Home, 68 Lindsay Street North and 111 William Street North.

“People can attend and receive help from many different service providers all in one place,” Campbell said, “and ensure that their unmet needs are being addressed. Other service providers are joining in at the mobile hub and the funding is servicing the correct individuals.”

Campbell told council the program has experienced a number of success stories where initially reluctant potential clients have learned to trust the service providers hosting the mobile hubs and have benefitted by receiving medical care, mental health care and access to pharmacists. Campbell also pointed out that every patient seen at the mobile hub is likely one fewer who calls 911 or shows up in the RMH emergency ward.

Corley calls the successes of the pilot program small but important wins for these individuals, and with Campbell, wants to see the idea expand to a permanent location open seven days a week.

“We need to change how we deliver services,” Corley said. “A change in how the service is delivered can change the impact and lead to success in the lives of our residents.”

Michelle Corley. Photo: Sienna Frost.

A new larger facility

“A bigger, stronger hub is needed,” Corley said. “Once a location is secured for the hub, we can provide many different services.” These include a rest zone, a warming and cooling space, harm reduction supports and supplies, primary care services, first aid and wound care, mental health and addictions support, scheduled activities and events, meals, washrooms, referrals to Ontario Works and housing, peer support, employment training and consumption and treatment services.

Corley told council that $1.2 million in provincial homeless funding could be used for securing a permanent space under the auspices of the John Howard Society, and once the real estate is purchased additional funding will follow from other groups, including the municipality, which will allow providers to broaden the services offered.

“We are aiming for seven days a week” support, she said, serving the most complex needs first.

Council offers support

“This is a good news story,” said Deputy Mayor Tracy Richardson. “The impact you (the mobile hub) have made is incredible. It is amazing to think about what the future will be once a seven-days-a-week facility is available.”

Richardson, however, wanted to know more about where the funding is coming from.

Corley said the initial $1.2 million will be used for capital spending (like the building purchase).

“We expect more funding from health care providers for daily operations,” Corley said.

Councillor Pat Warren wanted to know why Peterborough has received federal funding for homeless services and Kawartha Lakes has not.

Corley said she did not have the exact answer but hypothesized that larger urban centres seem to be getting the homeless funding, but hopes that Kawartha Lakes will get more provincial funding once it becomes clear that no federal money is forthcoming.

Warren appreciated that the hub is addressing mental health issues, because she agrees that “hopelessness leads to drugs.”

Councillor Dan Joyce wanted to know the genesis for the idea and if the Kawartha Lakes program would be modeled off a very successful homeless program pioneered in Kingston.

Corley agreed that the Kawartha Lakes program is largely modelled on the Kingston program, but with one key difference.

“Our site will not be a safe consumption site for right now,” Corley said.

Councillor Mike Perry wanted to know when these kinds of services might be made available in Fenelon Falls.

“Fenelon Falls will be next on the list,” Corley said. “There is a greater need there than other (smaller) communities.”

Perry asked if funding could be included in the proposal to bring people needing the help of the integrated care hub into Lindsay.

Corley noted Perry’s request but suggested “it was a little early for those kinds of considerations,” and later in her presentation noted that Lindsay is facing the greatest need.”

“We will expand to other opportunities once funding is available.”

1 Comment

  1. Wallace says:

    When will western politicians stop giving billions to other countries to squander on their own interests, and start spending billions at home to help the poor living on our streets? Governor Jessie Ventura said foreign aid is when you take money from your own poor people and give it to another countries rich people. He was not wrong. When will this madness stop?

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