United Way Peterborough to host mayoral candidates’ debate on homelessness

The United Way Peterborough and District is hosting a mayoral candidates' debate focusing on homelessness in the city. Global News Peterborough file

Peterborough’ mayoral candidates will focus on homelessness in the city during an upcoming debate in early October.

The debate on Wednesday, Oct. 5 will be hosted by the United Way Peterborough and District in partnership with the One City Peterborough, the Research for Social Change Lab at Trent University and All Saints’ Anglican Church. The public debate at All Saints’ Anglican Church (235 Rubidge St.) will run from 7-9 p.m. It will be open to both in-person and virtual audiences. Questions — collaboratively written by the hosting agencies with community member input — will be sent in advance to the candidates, and community members will have the opportunity to ask questions both in-person and virtually.

The debate will also be live-streamed on All Saints’ YouTube channel:

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Vying for the mayor’s role in the upcoming municipal election are Henry Clarke, Jeff Leal, Brian Lumsden, Victor Kreuz and Stephen Wright.

The United Way’s “Point-in-Time Count” study released in August noted for every two people experiencing chronic homelessness that are staying in shelters, there are three people experiencing chronic homeless sleeping unsheltered. On the night of its survey of 176 respondents, 46 per cent (81 people) said they were staying a shelter versus 27 per cent who stayed outside (47 people) and 20 per cent (35 people) who were unsure of their location. The 47 people staying outside represent a 350 per cent increase from the previous count held in 2018.

“The issue of homelessness and the ravages it has on those experiencing it, cries out – indeed demands leadership, in particular political leadership,” said United Way CEO Jim Russell.

“We are keen to hear how these candidates will lead our community in ensuring safe affordable, supportive housing for all.”

Click to play video: 'Peterborough Action for Tiny Homes unveils first of homeless sleeping cabins'
Peterborough Action for Tiny Homes unveils first of homeless sleeping cabins

The host organizations note the “more disturbing” trend was people experiencing chronic homelessness which is defined as being unsheltered for six or more months within the last year. The point-in-time survey showed 125 people in this category, representing a 45 per cent increase since the last count.

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“The starting point for any response to homelessness is to adopt a human rights orientation to developing community responses,” states Dr. Naomi Nichols of the Research for Social Change Lab at Trent University. “We are pleased to be collaborating with One City and United Way in hosting this event and look forward to the responses from the candidates.”

Christian Harvey, executive director of One City Peterborough, notes last winter saw shelters full with community members “left out in the cold.”

“While there needs to be long-term permanent solutions, this winter looks stark without a plan, and investment in saving lives is desperately needed,” said Harvey.

Russell and Nichols will act as co-facilitators for the debate.

Prior to the start of the debate, a barbeque will be held at the church from 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. and is free of charge.


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