Tackling housing and homelessness
By Monty Laskin
The Region of Peel recently released the, We Heard Report, “…intended to inform and support…the development of Peel’s 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan”. Our Regional government is sharing what it has heard from constituents. And they are also going further; they’ve posted an online survey, inviting people to share ideas and reactions to their report.
Let’s begin by asking, for the record, if there is a need for a Housing and Homelessness Plan for Caledon as there is for the Region’s other municipalities? It’s an important question to ask for any community. For Caledon Community Services, the answer goes a long way in determining the services we strive to provide for our community.
Caledon Community Services moves forward in all of its programs based on evidence. For this organization, the evidence walks through our doors every morning and doesn’t stop presenting itself, in complex and challenging ways, until late in the afternoon. The evidence is extremely varied and all very compelling.
Those who work in our seniors’ health services, transportation service, employment programs, youth services, language classes and care/counselling programs address housing and homelessness daily. Our evidence suggests in excess of 200 families needing to thread the needle every single day so as to remain in a safe shelter. Some own a mortgage and are about to default; some rent and are barely making rent money let alone having something left for food, clothing and transportation; some couch surf and then couch surf some more. All are in very difficult housing circumstances.
So it’s no surprise that Caledon Community Services believes that Caledon should carefully consider the Region’s Housing and Homelessness Plan. It is our wish that it also pay particular attention to the challenges of individuals and families in our community who are not at all home secure. As Caledon develops its unique responses to housing and homelessness, we are certain that the Region has a great deal of wisdom to offer. We also know that Caledon residents also have some good ideas on what’s required in their community.
To that end, we encouraged our friends and supporters to take the Region’s online survey. We also held a small in-house consultation, inviting those with lived-experiences and personal/professional interests in homelessness to weigh in. We heard about the importance of prevention, data collection, support services and inadequate housing stock. We also heard a lively debate on what should be deemed “affordable” in Caledon.
We heard that transportation is a major barrier and the lack of public services exacerbates housing challenges and the pursuit of employment.
We were told to develop more partnerships because there’s strength in numbers and in collaboration across Caledon organizations that share the same values and visions.
We heard people talk about the pain of seeing front page news in our local papers about horse and walking trails and back page news about affordable housing. The emphasis on community education was indeed very strong.
There were people who talked about local initiatives across other Canadian municipalities that are extremely innovative. And some of them are working. So there was a loud call to action.
People had ideas regarding the responsibilities of developers, the intensification of Bolton and Caledon East and the use of existing housing stock via renters’ rebates.
This matter of housing and homelessness is not going to go away even though we wish it would. The problems are complex and Caledon clearly has its share of them. What community doesn’t want to see all of its residents properly housed? It’s right up there with food, jobs and healthcare. You’ve got to have a place to live if you hope to make progress on your dreams. No home? Then you’re constantly needing to figure out where to lay your head for the night. And how to ensure your child also has a safe and warm bed to enjoy every night.
Unless and until our community commits to targeting the problem of housing and homelessness, we’re going to feel the challenges of the larger municipalities too. It’s most certainly in us within Caledon to take on this problem with our own local solutions coupled with Regional initiatives.Â Kim D’Eri, CCS’ Poverty Reduction Manager, is launching a working committee on this very real problem of housing in our community. If you’re interested in hearing more, please reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at our office, 905.584.2300, ext. 202.
Monty Laskin is the Chief Executive Office of Caledon Community Services.