KAWARTHA LAKES-The City of Kawartha Lakes has exceeded it’s goal to house 24 of the most vulnerable homeless residents by July 2018.
A survey done in 2016 found there were at least 136 people experiencing homelessness in the City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County. The survey was part of the 20,000 Homes Campaign.The 20K Homes Campaign is a national movement focused on ending chronic homelessness in 20 communities and housing 20,000 of Canada’s most vulnerable homeless people by July 1, 2020. Homelessness is defined as being either completely unsheltered, living in emergency shelter, or provisionally accommodated without permanent tenancy.
The City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County Council made a commitment as part of the 20,000 Homes Campaign to house 24 of the most vulnerable homeless in our area by July 1, 2018. “Conducting a homelessness count allows the community to better understand the nature and the extent of homelessness and the characteristics of the homeless population. The data collected will support housing, homelessness and service planning and over time, with ongoing enumeration and assessment efforts, will allow the community to assess progress in reducing homelessness.” said the report.
Officials say they have already surpassed their goal. “I can report to you that as of September 30, 2017 we have housed 41 homeless individuals through our commitment of the 20K Homes campaign, within the CKL and County of Haliburton regions.” Michelle Corley,Program Supervisor – Housing Help Division, City of Kawartha Lakes told Kawartha 411.
There’s still a lot of work to do. “We currently have 19 high acuity homeless individuals who are on our By-Name-List who will potentially get in our Housing First program or will be supported to find housing and will receive coordinated wrap-around supports from existing community support agencies.” Corley says.
In total, 25% of those surveryed in 2016 were youth between 16 and 24 years, 58% were adults between 25 and 59 years, and 17% were older adults 60+ years. None of the individuals surveyed were under 16 years and the oldest individual surveyed was 75 years old. The average age of individuals surveyed was 40 years old.
The respondents came from a wide demographic. 24% identified as Aboriginal or as having Aboriginal ancestry, 3% served in the Canadian Military or RCMP, 32% moved to the CKL region in the last 12 months, and 8% of respondents report being incarcerated in the last 6 months.
The average number of months since respondents had lived in permanent stable housing was 19 for youth (age16-24), 31 for adults (age25-59), and 32 for older adults (age 60+). The majority of total respondents (46%) had been without permanent housing for 2+ years. The group then cross-referenced it with the CKLH wait list for financially assisted housing and found only 31% of respondents are already on the list.
Couch surfing or staying with friends, often referred to as ‘hidden homelessness’, was identified by nearly half of youth, 37% of adults and 26% of older adults also reported that they had found themselves in this situation. Forty-five percent (45%) of total respondents report being homeless for 6 or more months in the last year, which experts say is a marker for chronic homelessness.
The survey also included a series of questions that asked respondents about their use of health services, and interaction with police. When asked how many times in the last six months they had interactions with police or hospital services, respondents reported 254 total visits to the Emergency Room, 85 hospitalizations, and 136 interactions with police.
When it comes to physical health, 16% of youth, 27% adult and 21% of older adult housing. More than three quarters of older adults (age 60+) indicate that they have a chronic health issue, and 80% reported seeking help when they are sick or not feeling well.
In total, 20% of respondents said they have lost their housing due to substance use, 15% have lost their housing because of a mental health issue or concern, 14% have lost housing because of a past head injury, and 23% have lost housing because of a learning disability, developmental disability or another impairment.
Officials say they assume that these numbers are low because of the self-report nature of the survey and the commonly held belief that issues like mental illness, substance use and disability are under-reported.