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‘Aspirational and comprehensive’: Public gives feedback on London’s homelessness prevention plan

Community members gathered at Goodwill Industries on Horton Street Thursday evening to give feedback on the city's Homelessness Prevention and Housing Plan. Sawyer Bogdan / 980 CFPL

Two years ago, the home Chris Bentley was renting burned down. He lost everything.

“All my possessions, mementos — everything one accumulates over a lifetime.”

Since then, Bentley has been experiencing homelessness. He’s been searching for a place to live but said it hasn’t been easy.

“So far, I haven’t been successful. The waiting lists are so long and the available housing that’s out there is hard to get into. I’m on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) and CPP (Canada Pension Plan) disability, so I have a limited income,” he said.

READ MORE: Homelessness and social housing dominate committee meeting at London city hall

London’s Homelessness Prevention Housing Plan aims to help provide housing stability for people like Bentley. The city held its final public consultation on the plan on Thursday at Goodwill Industries, which Bentley attended.

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“[It’s good to see] that people are gathered here to add input to solve a common problem,” Bentley said.

“There’s only six types of people who are homeless all over the world. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters.”

According to manager of housing services Dave Purdy, the goal of the city’s plan is to address housing needs, drivers, actions, and outcomes that the city and its partners can work on over the next five years.

“It’s a four-pillar approach [that] looks at stock, support, systems and immediate responses,” he said.

He said the city aims to emphasize “the importance of supports when it comes to homelessness and housing.”

“It’s no longer about units and keys — it needs to come with supports to make that housing stable.”

One resident felt the plan was “aspirational and comprehensive.”

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“There’s a focus on prevention, which is very important,” said Julie Ryan. “It’s a lot easier to prevent homelessness than to try and find homes for people once they’re homeless.”

READ MORE: ‘There is hope’ — Police officer’s 24-hour stand against homelessness concludes

Purdy said the city wants to create housing sustainability for all.

Housing Services will review the feedback before bringing a final plan to city council.

The project is expected to get underway by 2020.

— With files from Sawyer Bogdan.

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