May 21, 2022

Homelessness Network: consultant’s report on “the best money the city has spent in a long time”

The CEO of the Community Health Center, lead organization of the Homeless Network, says the report leaves him “optimistic” about the homelessness crisis

After reviewing the report presented to city council by the roaming consultant Iain De Jong, Denis Constantineau told he was optimistic about the plan to overcome Sudbury’s homeless crisis.

Constantineau is the general manager of the Center for health community of Greater Sudbury, the lead organization of the homelessness network and the oldest outreach program in Sudbury. Constantineau said his copy of the report was “highlighted with lots of yellow and orange”.

De Jong is a world-renowned homelessness expert who was hired by the city to design an action plan to help homeless people, especially those living in the Memorial Park settlement. The cost of the plan and report to council was $ 9,000; An additional $ 12,000 will allow De Jong to support the implementation of the plan and the total amount ($ 21,000) has been funded by the Provincial Social Services Relief Fund.

Constantineau considers the cost to be more than reasonable for what was given in return.

“This is the best money the city has spent in a long time,” he said.

The report

The 44-page report is divided into sections that include an initial preamble before detailing the plan into three actionable phases. The preamble is educational in nature, providing statistics and a better understanding of the problem and the services available based on De Jong’s visits to Sudbury in late August and early September.

Other sections include preparation, details of a co-ordered response table, with “clear senior management” and protocols within which city departments must work, as well as an inventory of available services. The section titled Mitigation details the need of include the need to gather information on all current encampments and consolidate it in one place, determine priorities and start securing alternative locations for people.

This before moving on to the final phase, which is the planned and accompanied closure of the camp.

The report also details new initiatives underway or under consideration. They include an expansion of seven spaces at the Four Sisters Motel (in place since late August) and a review of a second motel to be used as “a bridge between homeless homelessness and permanent housing,” it reads. The report.

There is also $ 150,000 in new funding allocations for the Homelessness Network and the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI), a provincial program, will invest $ 1.2 million annually.

Good intentions

The report also details the barriers in place in Sudbury, as well as the effects of well-meaning but sadly unnecessary community volunteers.

Constantineau Also agrees with these points and admits that while he understands the need and desire to volunteer, it can have a negative impact on both service providers and the homeless.

He notes that there is government funded food that is wasted when others bring meals downtown.

“In one month, last year, 1,000 meals were prepared at the Samaritan Center and were not served. So it’s not just volunteer hours, it’s money to buy food, and it wasn’t served because people were serving soup in the trunk of their cars ”, said Constantineau.

“We saw, especially at Christmas, three dinners served to the same customers. There is a lack of coordination there, it is not a good use of resources. And this is… a small example, but it is a very concrete example.

Constantineau stated that regardless of the level of compassion and kindness, “it is not enough to avoid inadvertently doing more harm than good.”

The report itself does not mince words about the “problematic” engagements of untrained volunteers. He says without training in trauma-informed care, the caregiver may inadvertently cause more trauma, be unable to help find the appropriate supports and resources, and, as an individual, not be held accountable. of its practices as a funded non-profit organization would be. .

In addition, “the intention of informal voluntary groups must be carefully considered,” the report reads. “A review of social media by members of the community seems to suggest that this is toxic, ego-driven charity. “

Secondary pitches and mini-houses

The report’s arguments against a safe encampment or small hometown are also at odds with what many in the community – and council – see as an opportunity.

The report says that in addition to the lack of legal means to get people to use it, setting up a safe camping area could mean spending money somewhere else no one wants to go. , thus wasting money that could be used on permanent land. Solution. The same goes for small homes, which are expensive to operate and may not meet the needs of all who need them.

“Creating a second camp does not solve the problem either,” said Costantineau.

He said the need for voluntary movements means there could be half the people in one and half in the other.

“Then, as a service provider, our staff are going to run in between trying to find people, trying to work with them and moving them. towards housing to meet their needs. The police will be involved in both camps. settlement is going to be involved in both encampments. Public health will be involved in both camps. It’s just a waste of resources. And that doesn’t solve the housing problem, we just shift the problem. ”

Constantineau said that even if the land in front of the Samaritan Center, a land designated by the council as a possible second location, is used, it might not help everyone.

“We could put a bunch of tiny houses there and for maybe 10% of the customers, that will meet their needs. So what do you do with the rest of the people? We cannot force them to do so, they have the right to choose. And if it doesn’t meet their needs, it doesn’t meet their needs.

There’s what’s called the one-time tally this week, a one-day snapshot of homelessness in every community in Canada. This should provide an additional update to the numbers in the report.

Statistics show that the homeless population in Sudbury is overwhelmingly male and single, and almost half identify as Aboriginal. However, far from the 1,500 to 2,000 homeless people in Sudbury suggested at the council meeting, Constantineau said the approximate current figure is 150 people.

“Now, are there people who are at risk of becoming homeless? Are there people living in poverty? Absoutely. But that’s not what we’re talking about, ”Constantieau said of immediate priorities.

“We are talking about absolutely homeless people, homeless people. So we have to stop thinking that we know we have to stop thinking that it’s 2,000 or 3,000 people. That’s not to say it’s not a crisis. But it’s not 2,000.

Affordable housing

At the heart of Constantineau’s report and work is the need for affordable housing, which he says is sorely lacking in Sudbury.

“We lost over 100 downtown units, rooming houses, studios and one-bedroom apartments that were really affordable,” Constantineau said. “Was this an ideal accommodation? Not at all. But it was affordable housing, and the only solution to homelessness is housing.

And from housing to housing assistance.

“You have to work with clients,” says Constantineau. “Every person has a story, and you have to work with that client and find out what their needs are, and work with them so that they have a choice. And then you can find something suitable for them, and then support them in that accommodation, so that it can become successful accommodation.

It is the ‘housing first’ approach that is the basis of a housing plan, ensuring that someone has housing regardless of their level of need, and then providing the services afterward. .

“Years ago, before taking a Housing First approach, we were just housing and rehousing the same people over and over again,” Constantineau said. “They had no support, so they didn’t pay their rent, they got fired, and they’re back, and you’re housing them again.

“So the idea now is to house them and then surround them with the supports they need, so they can stay housed. ”

Whether it’s life skills, trauma recovery, or health care or addiction, support is in place until it’s no longer needed and then available to the next. person in need.

So far, Constantineau likes the plan presented.

“I am optimistic that the city will implement the recommendations because they are based on data and on experience,” Constantineau said. “I am optimistic that this can work in terms of developing a system that can be effective, am I optimistic about the potential results, but it will always depend on some factors that are beyond our control, and that is the access to housing. ”

He believes, however, that it makes more sense than what has happened so far.

“Especially with regard to the encampments, which were only execution measures, and which we believe didn’t work, because we just take them from one place and move them to another.” Constantineau also said the key to the whole plan is coordination. “And I know half the population just rolled their eyes when I said, ‘oh, great, no more paperwork’, but the reality is that the right hand needs to know what the hand is doing. left. And I am not convinced for the moment that we are all on the same wavelength, ”said Constantineau.

“We need to have law enforcement, police, social services and frontline workers all on the same page and all agree this is the only approach that will be successful in tackling the encampments. “

You can find the Greater Sudbury Camp Intervention Guide here.