Hous­ing for vul­ner­a­ble first: re­port

Home­less peo­ple could be placed at top of wait­ing lists

The Peterborough Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - JOELLE KO­VACH EX­AM­INER STAFF WRITER

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.

CLIF­FORD SKARSTEDT EX­AM­INER FILE PHOTO

The city’s home­less could be given “ur­gent sta­tus” on the so­cial-hous­ing wait-list, a con­sul­tant says.

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