City staff may take over affordable housing waiting list
Homeless people have “almost non-existent” access to rentgeared-to-income apartments in Peterborough because they aren’t at the top of the waiting list for social housing, a consultant says — but that could be about to change.
On Monday, city council will review a staff recommendation to take over administration of the waiting list from the city’s provider of social housing, Peterborough Housing Corporation.
If council decides to follow that recommendation, the next step will be to have staff review how that list functions.
Under the current system, people are offered social housing on a first-come-first-served basis, Ottawa-based consultant Tracy Flaherty-Willmott said at recent committee meeting at city hall.
If council has “the political will” to put homeless people to the top of the priority list, she said, it could go a long way toward the city’s goal of eradicating homelessness in Peterborough by 2025.
Councillors will hear a presentation from Flaherty-Willmott’s firm, OrgCode Consulting Inc., on Monday night at a general committee meeting.
OrgCode was hired a year ago by the city to examine local homelessness and recommend solutions.
Councillors will also review a separate staff recommendation on Monday to take over the social housing waiting list from PHC by June 30.
The idea is to give the city “direct control” over the wait-list for more than 1,500 units of rent-geared-to-income housing that the city funds and operates, states the new city staff report.
The OrgCode report was completed in spring, before the homeless encampments in Victoria Park and at St. John’s Anglican Church came to be set up.
The encampments were set up after the July 1 closure of the Warming Room homeless shelter, which had been housed nearby in the basement of Murray Street Baptist Church.
The church basement needed extensive renovations, so the shelter closed. Now city council has approved a plan to renovate the dining hall of the church to make it safe for use as a dormitory this winter.
Although it’s unclear when the dining hall might be ready for nighttime occupancy, the city currently has emergency cots in the lower-level auditorium of the Peterborough Public Library.
The largest encampment this summer was at Victoria Park, which is owned by Peterborough County.
Neither the city nor the county had bylaws at the time to explicitly ban overnight camping in parks. In August, both city and county councils adopted no-camping bylaws.
Faced with eviction on Aug. 27, half the campers at Victoria Park left, saying they would couch-surf with friends.
The rest went up the street and pitched tents at Emmanuel United Church, where they camped with clergy permission until it got cold at the end of September.
As that camp was dismantled, many campers said they would also couch-surf.
The encampment at St. John’s Anglican Church has dwindled from 18 in summer to about two now; church officials have been helping people find shelter.