“Currently, the trends are telling us that the majority of folks that we are seeing coming through our door experiencing homelessness are families with young children,” said Lisa Ryan, executive director of South Shore Open Doors Association (SSODA).
“The second demographic would be seniors who are on a fixed income.”
From the end of May through June, SSODA gathered data on the number of people who accessed their services in need of housing support.
Ryan says roughly 40 people (tracked as households) were unable to find any housing throughout the county but she states that number is actually much higher.
“We have about 21 families and in that number, there are 27 children,” she said.
Ryan says the growing number of children experiencing homelessness in the region is a “grave concern.”
“We have a significant number of human trafficking issues here and knowing that we have so many folks who are placed in very vulnerable and precarious situations increases the risk of families, youthd and women to fall into the hands of predators,” she said.
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Lunenburg West MLA Becky Druhan wasn’t available for an interview to discuss the data but the NSPC Caucus Office shared an emailed statement on her behalf.
“It is important to develop an understanding of the unique and specific barriers that exist in communities and the work SSODA is doing will help inform how we can best meet the housing needs of South Shore residents,” the statement attributed to Jordan Croucher reads.
In an interview on June 30, Town of Lunenburg Mayor Matt Risser expressed optimism that changes to the town’s planning strategy in 2021 will encourage new housing stock to be built.
“We’ve allowed for more density in terms of where people are able to build. We’ve allowed more as-of-right development, which means that people just need a permit so they’re not hung up by public hearings,” he said.
Ryan says what’s desperately needed is an increase in government funds being funnelled into non-profits to support housing projects, along with a direct shift away from a shelter-model system.
“The unfortunate thing is for shelters and shelter workers, they’re expected to do the impossible. Where they’re supposed to shelter people with inadequate funding, in inadequate buildings, and inadequate resources and yet move them forward to housing that doesn’t exist,” she concluded.
Ryan says there also needs to be more enforcement of the province’s short-term rental registry.
“We know at the rate that we are losing our long-term rentals to short-term stock like Airbnb, it is rapidly increasing the risk in situations of homelessness,” she said.
According to the province, there are currently 1,338 short-term rentals registered with the Tourist Accommodation Registry for 2022.