What are the challenges putting some Muskokans at risk of being homeless?
This is the question the District of Muskoka will be asking this April as it works with the province to tackle the issue of homelessness. In 2016, provincial officials tasked all Ontario communities with finding out how many of their residents were homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. This information will be used to help the province build a strategy with the goal of reducing and eventually ending homelessness.
In Muskoka, Commissioner of Community Services Rick Williams will be overseeing the Homelessness Enumeration process in April. This is basically an information collection process where the district will work with community partners to find out how many people are or have been homeless in Muskoka and why.
Williams says the district does have a number of community service programs that can put officials in contact with these people. But, he says there are also a number of people affected by homelessness that may fall through the cracks.
He says this is where the community partners come in. The district has put together a working group including organizations like the Muskoka Women’s Advocacy Group, the YWCA, the OPP, Table Soup Kitchen, local First Nations governments and others. Representatives from each of these organizations will be able to connect with the Muskokans who may not be using community services offered by the district. This would include people using shelters, food banks and community meal programs.
Williams says while this information will be sent to the province to help with its homelessness strategy, the details will be helpful to the district as well.
The district will be able to identify programs that are duplicated or unnecessary and work towards building a stronger network between itself and its community partners. Williams says the only way to truly fix the problem of homelessness is to make sure everyone has access to permanent housing across the district.
The enumeration process will run between April 11th and 17th. The district will need to send its results back to the province by May.