News

Province provides $1.5M to Norfolk, Haldimand

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

Among those on the front lines in the battle against homelessness in Haldimand and Norfolk are, from left, Tricia Givens, supervisor of housing services in Haldimand and Norfolk, Heidy Van Dyk, Haldimand and Norfolk’s manager of housing and social services, and Leah Logan of Indwell in Simcoe.  MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

Among those on the front lines in the battle against homelessness in Haldimand and Norfolk are, from left, Tricia Givens, supervisor of housing services in Haldimand and Norfolk, Heidy Van Dyk, Haldimand and Norfolk’s manager of housing and social services, and Leah Logan of Indwell in Simcoe. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

SIMCOE  - 

The province and its partners in Haldimand and Norfolk are preparing to take a serious run at homelessness.

The Ministry of Housing has put up $1.5 million for the hiring of eight full-time staff that will work as a team to eliminate the causes of homelessness in Haldimand and Norfolk and put clients on the path to gainful employment and self-sufficiency.

Norfolk council approved the new hiring Tuesday. It did so with the understanding that the initiative will not require levy dollars from Haldimand and Norfolk.

“The cost of doing nothing will be borne by the community,” said Norfolk Mayor Charlie Luke. “What we have right now is not working.”

The program involves identifying people who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness. This will include patrolling local walking trails to see who is living rough in tents.

In a presentation to council, Heidy Van Dyk, Norfolk and Haldimand’s manager of social services and housing, said many in the local area are one eviction notice away from homelessness. Many “couch surf” from home to home as they struggle to keep a roof over their head.

The new strategy involves a co-ordinated approach to helping the homeless. Many of these clients have mental health issues, addiction issues, gaps in their education, social skill deficits, and so on.

The new hires will strive to stabilize clients in temporary housing. They will then work on the obstacles preventing them from joining the economy in a productive capacity.

“By helping these individuals we are helping society,” Simcoe Coun. Peter Black said. “This is something that is needed and required.”

Locally, this proactive approach involves a recent partnership with Indwell at the former Hambleton Hall in Simcoe.

Indwell has 35 social housing units on site as well as five emergency beds for individuals who – for whatever reason – have no place to stay. In a presentation to council, Indwell representatives said they have so far stabilized 70 per cent of emergency clients.

Leah Logan of Indwell said the success rate is this high, in part, because the team at Indwell offers additional supports beyond a bed and shelter from the elements.

Van Dyk agreed that the partnership has been beneficial.

“Over the last few years we’ve had difficulty finding motel rooms,” Van Dyk said. “We just can’t access them. The beds at Indwell are not only more affordable but there are better supports there for these clients.”

Because of its larger population, Norfolk is the health and social services manager for Haldimand as well. Prior to the approval of Tuesday’s program, Norfolk council inserted a clause stating that this aggressive attack on homelessness will be done 100 per cent with provincial money.

Afterward, Van Dyk and her associates gave assurances that the new hires will be dedicated to the issue of homelessness in Norfolk and Haldimand alone. Van Dyk said her team will not assume responsibilities discharged by social service agencies beyond her jurisdiction.

Tricia Givens, the local supervisor of housing services in Norfolk and Haldimand, says many municipalities have received an increase in their precarious housing allowance under the province’s Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI).

Givens says the new hires will provide Haldimand and Norfolk the same per-capita resources to deal with homelessness as other jurisdictions.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com