Homelessness in Northumberland County is approaching a crisis

Homelessness in Northumberland County nears crisis level
Northumberland County has high rates of homelessness and low vacancy rates for rental accommodation.

Transition House in Cobourg is one of three homeless shelters in Northumberland County. It has beds for 24 individuals, which include single men, single women and families. It’s been full for the past six months.

Executive Director Diane Keast says they have seen a big increase in new faces coming to the doors, looking for a place to stay. She says the problem is a chronic lack of affordable rental accommodation across the county.

“Our vacancy rate is sitting at point zero three per cent, and the cost of rentals is just out of this world,” said Keast.

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When there are no shelter beds available, the homeless turn to the Salvation Army. They offer hostel services; temporary accommodation in local motels.

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It’s supposed to be only for a night or two but David Alexander, director of Community and Family Services, says it can run into weeks since there is no alternative.

“We are finding the shelters are full all the time, and the people’s stays in the shelters are longer, and so we need to accommodate people longer in motels. Ourselves, we’ve been dealing with 14 unique people, every month, this year. And so we’ve actually spent triple our budget this year, in providing these hostel services,” said Alexander.

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Both Keast and Alexander say the solution is to create more affordable accommodation for individuals and families but, they add, that would require a massive investment by the private or public sector.