Uncertain future for homeless persons brought in from the cold

Federal ‘Reaching Home’ temporary accommodation dollars run out April 31

GUELPH – A group of recently sheltered people may soon find themselves living on the streets again.

By the end of April, $633,318 in federal taxpayer dollars will run out.

The unexpected influx of cash was received in December by Wellington County, the social services administrator for the county and Guelph, and is partly being used to bring 21 homeless people in from the cold and into temporary accommodations like hotel rooms.

Another 23 homeless people have since been assisted into more permanent housing, thanks to the funds, provided under the federal government’s “Reaching Home” strategy to halve chronic homelessness across the country by 2028.

“In some cases, this is the first time that individuals have been housed for some time,” county housing director Mark Poste said at a March 13 social services committee meeting.

Tax dollars are not simply divvied up and handed out to people; the county is also spending the funds on keeping people housed with rent assistance, meeting basic human needs, purchasing cold weather supplies, temporary storage, and travel costs to get people to a shelter – to name a few initiatives.

A report to the committee, expected in the summer, will summarize how money was spent, as well as data showing what effect the money had. Poste told the committee last week that providing accommodation is likely to be the greatest expense.

“We’re hopeful that it’s just keeping people out of the cold,” Poste said.

Come May, there’s a real possibility the 21 people now off the streets will, by virtue of circumstance, be forced to return. What ultimately happens is of course unknown, but in the meantime there are hopes of finding housing options.

According to Poste, different community organizations are regularly checking in with those affected to find out what needs can be met while also asking “housing-related questions.”

Though the ultimate ideal for those who are getting stability, housing can be an alienating concept for others, especially those who have long been homeless.

“Sometimes they lose community; it’s a big, difficult step,” Poste told the Advertiser.

If a permanent solution can’t be found, or it’s just not the right time, there may be other options such as shelter spaces available. 

Poste said diversion and rapid rehousing teams within local shelters are also asking around about options.

“That’s all happening right now, with that housing-focused work, with those partners that are checking in with them every day.”