Housing for vulnerable first: report
Homeless people could be placed at top of waiting lists
Homeless people who are camping could be offered a priority status for social housing — just like women fleeing domestic violence are given priority on the wait-list, a consultant told councillors.
On Monday, city councillors heard this from Tracy
Flaherty-Willmott, an Ottawabased consultant who specializes in homelessness
She works for OrgCode, the firm hired a year ago by the city to examine local homelessness and recommend solutions.
Under the current system, people are offered social housing on a first-come-first-served basis, a consultant said at a recent committee meeting at city hall.
But there are people who get pushed further up the priority list from time to time, she said — families fleeing domestic abuse, for example.
If Peterborough has about 200 homeless people in the city who are not couch-surfing — they’re living rough or in shelters, for instance — then Flaherty-Willmott said perhaps they could be given “urgent status” on the social-housing waitlist.
“It wouldn’t be 200 people jumping the queue and be first to be housed,” she said, but it would give priority to the city’s
“most vulnerable” people looking for social housing.
Also at Monday’s meeting — too late for The Examiner’s print deadline — council was scheduled to review a staff recommendation to take over administration of the waiting list from the city’s provider of social housing, Peterborough Housing Corporation, by June 30.
Councillors were being asked to follow a recommendation from city staff, the next step will be to have staff review how that list functions.
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. The rest went up the street and pitched tents at Emmanuel United Church, where they camped with clergy permission until the end of September. As that camp was dismantled, many campers said they would couch-surf.
The encampment at St. John’s Anglican Church has dwindled from 18 in summer to about two now.
The city’s homeless could be given “urgent status” on the social-housing wait-list, a consultant says.