Posted on: November 23rd, 2023. By: Joseph Quigley, newmarkettoday.ca, Original Article.
‘We will do better,’ York Region chair says as non-profits seek stronger action to address rising homelessness.
York Region’s homeless population could grow from about 1,300 today to more than 2,000 in the next five years, according to new forecasting by data company Helpseeker.
The data was part of a special meeting to address homelessness hosted by York Region council. On Nov. 23, York Region staff and community partner organizations highlighted the landscape of homelessness, the challenges and possible ways York Region could undertake to address a homelessness crisis.
Helpseeker estimates the homeless population could reach between 2,100 and 2,300. Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said the region cannot be complacent and should take action.
“We can’t walk away from this workshop and think we’re doing the best we can. We have to do more,” he said. “Just because we can’t beat the (housing) waitlist, or just because we can’t necessarily house every person, we can’t give up.”
The homelessness trajectory is based on data provided to Helpseeker by York Region. The region, along with many areas in the province, is facing a rise in homelessness as housing and living costs have increased and outpaced wages. Municipalities have reported an encampments increase as people struggle to find affordable housing.
“To change that trajectory, we all have a role to play,” Turner said.
Multiple organizations offered their perspective to regional council, including 360 Kids, Loft, United Way, Community Legal Clinic of York Region, Unity Health Toronto and Blue Door.
United Way Greater Toronto president and CEO Daniele Zanotti highlighted a project announced in 2021 in Toronto, where a parking lot will be converted into housing with 51 affordable rental units.
“We will be weeks away from housing people, chronically homeless,” he said. “There is nothing stopping us from innovating, comparatively, in York Region.”
Research organization MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions director Dr. Stephen Hwang highlighted how the cost for governments providing housing to the homeless tends to be cheaper than emergency shelter beds, about $14,500 per year per person vs. $30,000 per year to maintain shelter beds.
Local housing organization Blue Door CEO Michael Braithwaite said that the government mobilizing to house people at the pandemic peak shows that housing everyone is possible.
“It can be done. We just need that will. We need the partnerships, and we need to all be pushing in the same direction,” he said.
Brathwaite further said change must also happen at the provincial and federal levels.
“We got into this housing crisis in the late 80s, early 90s, because of bad policy,” he said. “The only way out of it is good policy.”
York Region is developing a homelessness service system plan as a key component to a 10-year housing and homelessness plan in 2024. Staff expects to table the plan by mid-2024, with the special meeting meant to showcase where things stand with homelessness.
The region did dedicate more funding in 2023 towards social causes, with a $12.77 million one-time boost to social services. Staff highlighted that funding is on its way to becoming permanent over the next few years, with more than $8 million found in the 2024 budget to maintain the boost. York Region also has several affordable and transitional housing projects in the works, including on Bayview Parkway in Newmarket.
Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said social service solutions have to made across York Region and the GTA, or else those in need of help will flock to the locations offering the best services.
York Region chair and CEO Wayne Emmerson thanked all of the presenters and said York Region would improve its efforts on homelessness.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We will do better.”