Demand for homelessness prevention services rising in Halton

Local families seeking help to avoid eviction and secure permanent housing

The demand for measures that help keep vulnerable local residents off the streets is climbing.

According to the latest statistics put forth by Halton Region, 1,925 households were supported last year by the municipality’s homelessness prevention services — an increase from 1,746 in 2017.

The local families were assisted via dollars from the region’s Housing Stability Fund, which is used to prevent evictions and utility disconnections, secure permanent housing and furniture, and assist with moving and storage costs.

The influx can be attributed to the region’s efforts to intervene earlier in the lives of Halton residents at risk of homelessness, supporting them to ensure they remain housed, explained commissioner of social and community services Alex Sarchuk.

“The emphasis has shifted from emergency shelter to those upstream interventions,” he said during Wednesday’s regional council meeting.

Sarchuk noted this shift in attention is largely responsible for a decline in family shelter admissions, which has fallen 36 per cent since 2015.

He went on to present council with a snapshot of homelessness in Halton that reveals individuals and families continue to struggle to keep a roof over their heads in one of the Greater Toronto Area’s most affluent regions.

An enumeration conducted last year revealed that 271 people were experiencing homelessness in Halton, up slightly from the last count done in 2016 that identified 264 individuals.

Sarchuk said the increase is largely the result of a change in the way statistics are gathered, with the provincial and federal governments now mandating the inclusion of homeless individuals in hospitals, jails, motels and couch surfers.

Of the 271 people considered homeless locally, the majority were staying in transitional housing or shelters, while the remainder were said to be couch surfing or staying in a motel, the hospital or jail. Fourteen individuals were experiencing unsheltered homelessness — a decrease of five per cent since the 2016 count was completed.

Source: Independent Free Press, Author: Melanie Hennessey

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