Officials in London, Ont., and Middlesex County are welcoming new funding from the province for homelessness prevention.
The Ontario government announced it’s investing an additional $202 million into the province’s Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) and Indigenous Supporting Housing Program (ISHP), bringing the total yearly financing close to $700 million for these programs.
The province said that the additional funding will help those experiencing or at risk of homelessness and support community organizations delivering supportive housing.
Monte McNaughton, Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP, said that this includes over $21.8 million in support for the London region.
“That’ll go a long way to helping homelessness in Middlesex and London, and I look forward to the innovative projects that are going to come forward,” he said.
“Homelessness used to be a downtown, big city problem, but now it’s in villages and towns and cities right across the country,” McNaughton continued. “Obviously, we saw an acceleration during the pandemic, but it’s imperative that all levels of government, and working with labor and the private sector, ensure that we’re there to get people off the streets, get them a roof over their heads, and most importantly, get them on a path to a meaningful purpose driven life.”
Rob Flack, MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, echoed similar statements Tuesday, highlighting the need to address the ongoing housing crisis in the province and local community.
“This substantial increase in funding for London and Middlesex will provide necessary capital for critical local supportive housing programs,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say that when you have a strong economy, and you’re building and growing that top line, you have the needed funds to support important initiatives that we’re supporting today.”
Speaking with Global News, mayor Josh Morgan said that the funding will not only go towards advancing the city’s Health and Homelessness Whole of Community System Response, but in providing immediate support for those in need.
“There are service providers out there who need additional support to provide the services that we’re providing today to bridge the gap for us to get to the health and homelessness fund. So, a portion of these funds will certainly be used to address immediate needs within the City of London,” he said. “But a portion of this will also be used to start the implementation of our whole community response through the health and homelessness work that we’ve done.”
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The plan from London’s Health and Homelessness Summit, which was developed in around 100 days and was endorsed by city politicians earlier this year, centres around a connected set of integrated hubs that will use an “all doors lead here model,” allowing for flexible referrals.
The system calls for between 12 and 15 hubs to be built around the city, with each accommodating between 25 and 30 people. Each hub is planned to be staffed 24-7 and will provide basic needs, access to primary care, housing as well as income supports.
Along with the shelters, the system also proposes 100 high-support housing units could be set for construction immediately, with 600 completed over the next three years.
Morgan said that while the recent funding announced Tuesday will not fully fund the plan, there may be enough resources through the variety of sources the city has collected so far to begin the implementation.
“This month, the governance structure will be finalized, and the implementation plan will be finalized,” he said. “What you will see now is the City of London move forward with the implementation of the whole of community response.”
Ontario’s additional investment, initially announced in the 2023 Budget, represents a 40 per cent increase in province-wide funding in “supporting the most vulnerable.” Under the unveiled $202 million, the government said that each year $190.5 million will be allocated to HPP. The remaining $11.5 million will be invested in ISHP, which provides Indigenous-led long term housing support services to Indigenous people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said that “the province’s housing supply crisis impacts all Ontarians, no matter their background or budget.”
“That’s why we’ve increased funding for our homelessness prevention programs by more than 40 per cent,” he stressed. “These measures complement the bold and transformational change we are implementing to tackle the housing supply crisis and get more homes built faster across Ontario.”
Additionally, going back to McNaughton, he said that the Ministery of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development is “focused on transforming the Employment Ontario network.”
“I’m proud to say that London is going to be the regional hub for Employment Ontario services, and it’s all about helping people find meaningful, good paying jobs,” he said.
Middlesex County Warden Cathy Burdghardt-Jesson said that she is “pleased to see the Ontario government’s commitment to addressing the escalating challenges” the local “rapidly growing community” faces.
“Today’s (Tuesday’s) announcement is the result of months and months of advocacy work, not only working with my colleagues at the city, but at the provincial level,” she said. “To see this sort of investment that has been made in London and knowing that there will be a portion that will be allotted to the County, it will ensure that we will be able to look after our most vulnerable in a permanent, stable way.”
According to Burdghardt-Jesson, a portion of the funding increase for the HPP will directly being going towards sustaining the Middlesex County Interim Accommodation Project.
“We’ve been able to successfully house 100 people during the pandemic and up until the end of March, and so I’m really thrilled and excited knowing that it will now be permanent in Middlesex County,” she said.
Going back to Morgan, he said that he met with the province last week to discuss the city’s Health and Homelessness Whole of Community System Response, now set to meet with federal officials later this week for further discussion on implementing the system in London.
With a focus on awareness and advocacy for the plan, Morgan said he expects to see a lot more activity on it within the next 2 to 6 weeks.