Tuesday night’s over four-hour council meeting was taken up primarily with Kingston’s homelessness crisis and how to address it.
One of the recommendations in a staff report approved by council was to provide Home Base Housing with an additional $77,500 to extend street outreach services.
Coun. Rob Hutchison says the money is a start in trying to address the city’s homelessness problem. Hutchison’s district, King’s Town, is the home of Belle Park, where a homeless encampment set up last summer, and the Integrated Care Hub, the city’s short-term solution to deal with the housing crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He says the money will help provide outreach services all week, instead of just on weekdays.
“Extending the time from five to seven days a week will be helpful in helping us place people.”
But Hutchison says the real challenge is that there are more homeless people than there are shelter beds — a problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, as shelter beds have been reduced to maintain physical distancing.
Carrie Anne Marshall, a professor at Western University whose research focuses on the issues of homelessness and social housing, appeared before council Tuesday to speak to the issue.
“The United Way counted more than a hundred people likely that were on the premises of a shelter or an organization providing shelter-like supports, such as the Integrated Care Hub, but didn’t have a place to go,” she said.
She says this number is over and above the individuals using Kingston’s shelter beds.
Another staff recommendation was to give people living in an encampment 48 hours to leave. An amendment to extend that time frame to 14 days failed.
Hutchison says his concern is that a two-week extension would lead to long-term encampments that were witnessed at Belle and Artillery parks last summer.
“That was not going to work, especially for the immediate neighbourhood,” Hutchison said.
Marshall says encampments like the one at Belle Park occur because permanent housing solutions that meet the needs of homeless individuals don’t exist in sufficient numbers.
“It’s an old tale that in many Canadian communities there is a lack of permanent supportive housing. We need to advocate for more and more of it,” she said.
Hutchison agrees, saying finding permanent long-term solutions for those who are homeless is something the municipality is working towards.