Welland should support low-end housing units to help reduce homelessness in the city, councilors from the Niagara Region Housing and Homelessness Action Plan Councilor heard.
“Whether it’s projects like the new Niagara Region Housing Center through the (federal government’s) Rapid Housing Initiative or supportive housing, that would help,” Jeffrey said. Sinclair.
In January, Ottawa announced funding under the National Housing Strategy for a new 42-unit apartment building at 60 York Street, behind the Provincial Offenses Court building on Main Street East.
Twelve units will be for women and children fleeing domestic violence, 10 for people who are homeless or at risk, nine for people with physical disabilities, six for Indigenous people and five for Black Canadians.
Work will begin in November and will last for a year.
Sinclair said Welland could use low-end housing and supportive housing, both of which would help people in need.
He, Bob Carthew, Niagara Assertive Street Outreach (NASO) Niagara South Team Leader, and Shelly Mousseau, Program Manager of Gateway Residential and Community Support Services of Niagara, presented the latest numbers on homelessness in Welland, at the a meeting of the general committee of the council on Tuesday.
In Niagara, there were 1,037 homeless people.
Welland had 57 such people at the end of January. Of these 57 people, 37 were in emergency shelters, nine were couch surfing, eight were in makeshift shelters, vehicles or on the street, and three were in hotels/motels.
The chronically homeless numbered 28.
Sinclair said Welland had an above-average number of homeless youth, aged 16 to 25, at 14. The rest of Niagara has about seven in this age range.
“It’s a red flag for me. Why so?” said Ward Councilor 3. Jean Chiochio.
Sinclair said there is a youth hub in the city and more and more young people are coming to it to identify a housing need.
He said this was a more recent trend in the city and that the Region was working with its partners, including RAFT, which deals with young people living on the streets and those at risk of being in the street, on the matter.
“It was higher in December and the numbers started to drop.”
Sinclair said that as the housing market tightens, older and younger populations are struggling to access affordable housing.
In the presentation, the figures showed that nine of the city’s homeless people are between the ages of 55 and 65, which is above the regional average.
Men make up the majority of the city’s homeless, Sinclair said, followed by women and Indigenous residents.
In Welland, 83% of people in core housing need are singles or roommates. These residents spend more than 30% of their gross income on housing.
He said The Hope Center provides emergency shelter and supportive housing, Gateway provides supportive housing and active outreach, and RAFT provides outreach and prevention services for young people.
NASO’s Carthew spoke of a homeless man he met two years ago who lived under a bridge in Welland.
“I saw him every week.”
Carthew said it took some time, but he was able to convince the man to take advantage of community services.
“He decided to go and now he works part-time, cleaning around the Gateway building in Port Colborne where he lives. He was on the streets for seven years, living a very difficult life, now he is doing exceptionally well,” he said.
Mousseau of Gateway told the board that the majority of calls from people concerned about those who may be homeless or people experiencing homelessness come through the dedicated 211 phone line. NASO employees are contacted and respond to people immediately or within 15 minutes to an hour and then deploy to assist in any way possible.