Report finds money spent to fix North Bay’s homeless crisis hasn’t alleviated growing problem
Despite nearly $20 million spent over the last five years to solve homeless issues in the North Bay area, a new report finds the funding has not provided many benefits for those experiencing homelessness.
The report finds that in with the changing landscape and action taken so far, shelter bed supply is not meeting the demand.
“Given the economic circumstance we see in northern Ontario, what we’re seeing on our streets is indicative of what is transpiring,” explained board chair Mark King.
The ‘Homelessness Landscape In The Nipissing District’ report was presented to the social services board Wednesday.
The report also outlines the spending and operating costs at the low-barrier shelter and the Gateway House.
According to the report, the board has invested $2.8 million in developing the low-barrier shelter and Gateway House.
“The low-barrier shelter has accounted for 9.7 per cent ($276,051) of this funding with the Gateway House development accounting for the remaining 90.3 per cent, ($2,562,716).The shelter and supportive housing design and concept is still evolving and under development. Upon completion, this integrated housing with wraparound services and supports will provide 24/7 supports to residents and will focus on life skills,” reads the report.
The report also highlighted the annual operating cost for the low-barrier shelter which is over $1.6 million. That includes six months of day programming that allow the low-barrier shelter to be open 24 hours a day.
The annual operating costs at Gateway House are $1.2 million. The cost includes support services which operate 24 hours each day.
It also outlines the so-called ‘turning point’ when it comes to the homeless situation. In the fall of 2019, North Bay citizens were concerned about the amount of homeless people congregating downtown.
“Employment issues, manufacturing closures, all of those different things and the impact of increased cost of living are all playing a part in what we’re watching,” said King.
At the same time, social service members and those on the front lines helping people with mental health and addictions were finding it harder to help clients with complex issues.
Before the pandemic began, the board was spending on average $1.8 million per year for various homeless initiatives. Now it’s up to $7 million annually.
It doesn’t come as a surprise to Chris Brown, who has spent the last few years working to support the homeless community through HOPE’s Outreach. He has seen the spike in people on the streets.
“There are lots of issues. They really kept band-aiding it and now we’re in another pandemic the homeless rate in North Bay,” said Brown. “We had 105 people at one time at tent city.”
The DNSSAB is currently working on the Gateway House project which will focus on transitional housing.
“It will be opening shortly,” King said.
Another report is expected in October which will look at steps to move forward in fixing the homeless crisis.