City not sleeping on shelter issue

A public notice released by the City of Kingston announced that it will cut available beds by 19

In order to reduce homelessness and focus on permanent housing, the City of Kingston is cutting shelter beds.

On March 14, the City released a public notice stating their plan to reduce homelessness through the implementation of a 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan.

Over the next three years, shelters will go from having 74 City-funded beds to 55.

The City will take a new approach, dubbed “Housing First”, in order to rapidly re-house homeless people.

Leesa Owran, Kingston’s housing administrator, said the method will be beneficial.

”[As] housing increases, our need for shelter beds decreases.”

“Until people are housed and feel safe and secure, they’re not going to address any other issues,” Owran said. The City will reallocate money from shelters to the Housing First program.

Owran said that the City has decided to reallocate funds since shelters, while always necessary, are not an alternative to housing.

“It’s about ending homelessness, not managing homelessness,” she said.

Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing, a similar but less intensive program, are two parts of a larger plan to get homeless people into long-term housing.

The changes in strategy are being made in response to the number of people using emergency shelters for long periods of time, rather than just for urgent situations.

In the past, the City required that homeless people with disabilities, addictions or other conditions receive treatment before being placed in homes.

Rapid Re-Housing and Housing First focus on getting people out of shelters and into homes without any preconditions, Owran said.

Housing case management support will be offered to those with addiction or mental health issues that destabilize their housing, but it won’t be mandatory.

“[The tenants] just have to meet the demands of being a tenant,” Owran said, “which is paying your rent on time, not interfering with the reasonable enjoyment of your neighbours and damaging your apartment.”

Case management and housing must be in place before a mass amount of beds can be removed. Therefore, the process will be implemented gradually.

“The difference between Rapid Re-Housing and Housing First is really one of intensity,” she said.

The cases of Rapid Re-Housing tend to be less severe, and usually only need housing case management support for under a year.

People with severe disabilities are considered to need Housing First most, and will receive long-term support services. Housing First’s waitlist is based on intensity of the problems.

“We know affordable housing’s an issue across the city and there’s lots of people that need housing, but this program is focused on the support side of housing,” Owran said. Two Kingston shelters said they are on board with the City’s plan.

A representative from the Ryandale Shelter told the Journal that shelters can’t be the final solution to the homelessness issue.

Tom Greening, the executive director of family shelter Lily’s Place Shelter, under Kingston Home Base Housing, was also interested in a new approach.

“When the City first rolled out this plan they said it was going to be bold and a bit of a departure for how we have all done business in the past,” he said.

“I certainly think that we should try and do things differently than we have in the past — whether or not we’ll be successful, only time will tell.”

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