Homelessness in Chatham-Kent has nearly doubled over the years.
On October 19, Chatham-Kent municipal staff, along with several volunteers from local organizations, completed an enumeration by counting how many homeless individuals there were in Chatham-Kent.
According to the municipality, 171 individuals were identified as being homeless on the night of October 19, which is a 144 percent increase from the last enumeration done in 2018.
“When I compare the results to those of 2018, it is evident how much our community’s needs have changed,” said Tara Lauzon, Supervisor with Employment and Social Services. “The information gathered last week will help to guide us in our next steps and hopefully demonstrate that we need more help and more resources.”
During the enumeration, 149 people agreed to complete a survey on their experience of homelessness.
According to results, 60 percent of the individuals surveyed spent the night in emergency housing or motels, 18 people spent the night outdoors, and 30 people spent the night at someone else’s home.
Seventy-nine people reported being homeless for more than six months in the last year, 50 people reported currently having health challenges and 34 people identified as First Nation or Métis.
The survey also revealed that 70 percent of respondents said the cost of housing is the largest barrier they face.
According to the municipality, the Employment and Social Services Department has helped over 400 households in Chatham-Kent secure and return to housing since the start of the pandemic.
However, the cost of rent continues to climb. Employment and Social Services said the average market rent has increased in the region by at least 30 percent since 2019. The 2021 average market rent is $1,050 per month for a one-bedroom unit, not including utilities.
On top of high renting costs, the waitlist for housing-related programming in Chatham-Kent is also on the rise. The report stated the waitlist for a single bedroom unit in social housing averaging nearly five years. Emergency housing beds are also continuously at full capacity.
“The onset of the pandemic threw Chatham-Kent and municipalities across Ontario further into a homelessness crisis when already pressured systems were overwhelmed,” said Director of Employment and Social Services Polly Smith.
In the last 19 months, she added that Employment and Social Services saw the progress of hundreds of homeless people being re-homed. However, she has seen housing placements decline in the last few months, and ‘new’ people fall into homelessness.
“Our ‘by-name list’ increased, and now the enumeration confirms it, our homelessness rate is nearly two and half times what it was only three years ago,” said Smith.
In a release, Josh Myers, Program Manager for Employment & Social Services, said housing is the only way to end homelessness.
Myers said the Employment and Social Services Department said it plans to host community forums in the coming months to discuss the issue of homelessness. He added staff will be giving a presentation to council before the end of the year and reviewing and sharing the data from the enumeration and future plans to address the growing need for housing.
“Solving this complex problem will require a community response as no one agency, community group, or neighbourhood can solve this on their own. No one chooses to become homeless, and they certainly do not choose to remain homeless. Failing to act or ignoring this crisis will not make this go away. It will only make the situation worse.” said Myers.
Original Article: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2021/11/09/homelessness-in-chatham-kent-has-nearly-doubled-in-three-years.html