London, Ont. balancing short- and long-term issue of housing, homelessness crisis

Mayor Josh Morgan chairs a strategic priorities and policy committee meeting. 980 CFPL

City councillors heard Tuesday London’s response to the growing housing and homelessness crisis is coming along, with the work over the next couple of months focusing on designing the system.

The information came before council at the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee in the form of a report and communication from staff.

The city and local agencies’ response, officially known as the Whole of Community System Response, will utilize a framework that places those with lived and living experiences of being unhoused at the centre.

From that centre, various layers of groups and individuals, including front-line workers, various levels of government and the Middlesex-London Ontario Health Team, will coordinate work to assist those in need.

The framework details the use of various tables (groups) to help implement, strategize, and provide supports and oversight for the wide-ranging plan.

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Staff told councillors the city and local agencies are attempting to balance the short-term needs of people living primarily in encampments without that work taking away from resources devoted to the long-term plan.

While nothing has been approved by councillors, city staff and agencies are meeting to plan a 30 to 90 response for people living in encampments over the summer. The focus of the work will be on supporting those in encampments with basic needs and services while ensuring they do not become overly large or a fire hazard.

The report, along with a secondary letter from Mayor Josh Morgan, outlines the advocacy steps being taken with higher levels of government.

Morgan says he has met with over 20 provincial and federal government leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford. The mayor says leaders from both levels of government were impressed by the level of community support, adding at least one federal minister noted how the system could be used in their home city.

While noting “significant” asks were made to the federal and provincial government for funding, and there appears to be genuine interest in support, Morgan told councillors the plan would go through regardless of the other governmental supports.

The report to council notes an increase of $8.5 million in funding to the London/Middlesex Homeless Prevention Program from the provincial government. The $8.5 million in funding brings the base funding amount by the province to $21.8 million.

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“This investment allows the City of London as Consolidated Municipal Service Manager to have some flexibility in supporting initiatives in Middlesex County, address emerging pressures and help to maintain current services, and target future investment opportunities to advance the work of the Whole of Community System Response,” reads part of the report.

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