Homelessness currently affects Canadians from coast to coast. Statistics Canada reported that an average of 235,000 people in Canada annually experience chronic or episodic homelessness.
The City of Cornwall isn’t immune to this national issue.
The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) defines homelessness as the situation of an individual or family without stable, safe, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it.
In simpler terms, people who are homeless do not have safe, affordable, appropriate, permanent housing to which they can return whenever they choose.
Despite it being apparently straightforward, homelessness is quite complex, as are the issues that cause it. Lack of adequate income, of access to affordable housing and of health supports, as well as experiences of discrimination can all lead to homelessness.
It can also be caused by poverty, housing shortages, system failures, personal circumstances, and domestic violence.
Shifts in the economy, both nationally and locally, can also create challenges for people to earn and adequate income to pay for food and housing.
Ontario is the only province in Canada that holds municipalities responsible for providing community housing. As such, the City of Cornwall directly operates 1610 community housing units. Of these, 323 are Rent Supplement Program units offered in partnership with private landlords. The City is also responsible for community housing units overseen by eleven (11) external housing providers located across the region.
The City of Cornwall’s response to homelessness has been vast and continues to be proactive. This includes a housing crisis team, made up of a case manager and two housing stability coordinators that visit tents and encampments to provide income and housing support. The team also collaborates with local services such as VSMART, AGAPE, Centre 105, and the United Way of Cornwall/SDG.
The City of Cornwall has created a By-Name List, which contains the names of residents that self-identified as being homeless.
This same list enables the housing crisis team to make regular wellness checks. This team uses a shelter diversion philosophy in its work. This strategy prevents the use of emergency shelters by providing individualized supports when families and individuals are seeking to enter the emergency shelter system.
It aims to help individuals and families seeking shelter to explore safe and appropriate alternate housing arrangements and, if necessary, connect them with services and financial assistance to help them find secure housing.
In its provision of community housing, the City of Cornwall utilizes an eviction prevention program to keep community housing tenants and housed and only evict when necessary.
This includes engaging the social work supports found in our crisis team to connect tenants who are struggling to supports needed to retain their housing and much needed health, income, and social programming found in the community.
Although there may not be a homeless shelter in the city, the crisis bed program strives to fill this gap. These beds provide short term emergency housing to recipients in need. The City of Cornwall also provides funding for domiciliary hostels, which assist homeless individuals who require assistance. A total of up to 332 of these beds are available through 13 domiciliary hostels in Cornwall and in SDG.
In line with its Community Housing and Homelessness Plan, the City of Cornwall continues to strive to assist any resident facing homelessness and in doing so, is creating a strong, healthy, sustainable community with a wide range of appropriate and affordable housing options in which individuals and families can strive.
The City of Cornwall is also committed to the creation of a long-term development plan which will provide a path towards consideration of increasing affordable housing units throughout Cornwall and SD&G over the next 10 years.