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Orangeville Homelessness Committee Examining Options

Orangeville Homelessness Committee Examining Options

Now that the men’s shelter has been closed, the Town of Orangeville Men’s Homelessness Committee is acting to find another solution before winter hits.

“The past couple of weeks have been interesting and difficult,” said Mayor Sandy Brown at the October 20 Orangeville Men’s Homelessness Committee meeting. “I wonder if Choices is biting off more than they can chew.”

On October 19, 2021, Choices Shelter notified the public through Twitter that it had temporarily suspended the men’s shelter. According to Dufferin County staff, Choices was unable to renew the lease for the facilities housing the men’s shelter. Mayor Brown had brought forward a motion to have the Town of Orangeville supply emergency funding of $166,546 for a men’s shelter from November 1, 2021, to April 30, 2022. This money would be doled out monthly to Services and Housing in the Province (SHIP), Choices or other support agencies to provide shelter, food, and support for homeless men in Orangeville and Dufferin County. On October 4, council amended the motion to request that Dufferin County take on the funding request instead. Brown said he spoke to five of the six other Orangeville councillors and determined that the original motion would not have passed. 

“We stutter-stepped into asking for support at Dufferin County,” said Mayor Brown. 

Anna McGregor, Director of Community Services, has submitted a report to Dufferin County’s Health and Human Services Committee stating that work on supplying funding for a men’s shelter was already in progress before Orangeville council passed their motion, beginning in August after becoming aware of the men’s shelter through a Facebook post put out by Choices. McGregor writes that Dufferin County confirmed to Choices that financial support would be available and offered to review the contractual arrangements, similar to a process that two parties had undergone when Choices opened a ‘transitional’ unit. McGregor states that there is no new funding for a men’s shelter. However, she writes that they can redirect existing resources to a men’s shelter. As previously reported, Choices cancelled its meeting in early September with Dufferin County to discuss funding so that they could improve their business case. McGregor states that Choices re-established contact on October 4, and the funding meeting was then rescheduled for October 8.

The staff document outlines how, at the October 8 meeting, the business case presented by Choices did not provide details on the shelter’s mandate. The business case also did not separate start-up costs from operational costs or detail revenue streams. McGregor describes how, at this meeting, Choices was offered the option of ‘one-time’ start-up funding conditional on Choices supplying information on start-up costs. In her report, McGregor states that they are still waiting for these details and when a new property will be secured.

“My concern, which I think some have shared as well, is the ability for Choices to handle this,” Mayor Brown told the Men’s Homelessness Committee. “I think the precipitous nature of them starting up that men’s homeless shelter was problematic when they did not have a funding stream or lease agreement in place.”

The Town of Orangeville Men’s Homelessness Committee is considering its next steps, such as looking at other service providers to manage a men’s shelter, including Family Transition Place (FTP). 

“I feel that Family Transition Place is such a solid organization,” told Mayor Brown. “With all of the resources that they’re drawing upon now, they may be the conduit through which we could get something done to support men in our community.” 

Councillor Joe Andrews said he had been connected with Family Transition Place for several years, saying it is well run and has an ‘incredible’ amount of credibility. 

“I think it would be advantageous for us to see if there’s an opportunity to work with FTP in some capacity,” said Councillor Andrews.

Committee members communicated amongst each other how winter was soon approaching and that an answer needed to be found as quickly as possible.

“We need to find solutions before the snow flies,” said committee member Louis Sapi. “We need to focus on emergency right now.”

The committee spoke of approaching those already providing support to homeless men in the area, such as the Lighthouse and the Salvation Army. Members suggested requesting assistance from those operating local religious establishments, agreeing that it could be a way of tackling the emergency housing issue in the short term, and resolved to act on this. Mayor Brown also suggested the committee contact SHIP to see what they could do to help. Committee members decided to meet on October 25 to discuss their progress.

Councillor Andrews communicated that the homelessness issue seems to be growing, saying he’s been notified of a ‘small tent encampment’ on Hansen Boulevard. He said he informed Anna McGregor so the county could assist the individuals involved. However, Andrews said he had not received a timeline for when that would occur. Committee members had doubts as to how seriously Dufferin County staff is taking the homelessness issue.

“The reaction that county’s staff is providing to this issue is not helpful; they dismiss it,” said committee member Terry Carter. “Anna is running that organization in a way that reflects what she wants, it is not meeting the needs that we see.”

Sandy Brown said that he would take the homelessness issue to Dufferin County’s Health and Human Services Committee, which is set to discuss the homelessness concerns in the area at its next meeting on October 28, 2021.

References – Orangeville Homelessness Committee Examining Options

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