Grey County is planning to use new funding announced this week to help some of the community’s most vulnerable with their housing needs.
On Thursday, the province announced that Grey County would receive an additional $433,900 from the Social Services Relief Fund, bringing its total to more than $3.5 million since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grey County’s director of housing, Anne Marie Shaw, said Friday that while much of the previous funding the county had received went toward immediate needs in the community, the latest round will help people in the longer term and after the pandemic has passed.
“This is funding looking at encouraging longer-term housing-based solutions post-COVID,” Shaw said.
“We are also going to have a rent assistance program to provide households that are in rental arrears due to COVID.”
In Grey County, the funding comes on top of funds received about two months ago to renovate buildings into transitional supportive housing.
The county applied for funding for three projects and was approved for all of them. Those projects will see 10 units of transitional supportive housing built in Owen Sound at The Women’s Centre Grey-Bruce, the Maam Wiim Win Indigenous non-profit and Lutheran Social Services.
“It is very much needed,” said Shaw. “If a person is in our emergency system and is requiring longer-term assistance, these places will be available to help them transition and hopefully find something more permanent after that. It is that middle step that we have just been lacking.”
Shaw said the funding announced on Thursday will hopefully allow for more transitional housing units to be built on top of the ones already planned.
“We just received the knowledge of the funds yesterday like everyone else, so we are still going to determine if there is more we can do with them, but we are looking at renovating to provide some supportive transitional housing, which is much needed in the area,” Shaw said.
Funding through the Social Services Relief Fund began to flow to municipalities in the spring and has been used by municipalities and social service providers such as homeless shelters, food banks, emergency services, charities and non-profits to support the delivery of critical services, hire additional staff, acquire more PPE and fund ways to promote social distancing and self-isolation during the pandemic.
Shaw said the funding has helped many people through a variety of initiatives and services across Grey County.
A major beneficiary was Owen Sound Hunger and Relief Effort, which saw a 300 per cent increase in the use of their food program.
“We were able to help out with some food costs, we were able to help out with some equipment like new freezers, and we were also able to help out with some funds for modifications so the site could do takeout meals in the colder months,” said Shaw. “It is a good success story there of how the funds have really added to our community, and those services will be available post-COVID too.”
Funding has also gone to the United Way of Bruce-Grey, Canadian Mental Health Association, Y Housing, and 11 other food programs across Grey County. The fund has supported outreach worker positions with the YMCA of Owen Sound Grey Bruce and the CMHA.
“There are lots of great things being done with that funding and it is much needed,” said Shaw.
The funding received Thursday is part of $120 million allocated across the province that builds upon a second phase of social services relief funding announced in the fall.
On Thursday, Bruce County received an additional $167,600, bringing the total it has received from the Social Services Relief Fund to more than $1.7 million. A spokesperson with Bruce County expected to have an update on the funding next week as its human services department was confirming details with the ministry.
The provincial government has now spent a total of $510 million through the fund to help protect the health and safety of vulnerable people during the pandemic.
“Our government is responding to the ongoing needs of COVID-19 by providing more flexible funding to keep our vulnerable citizens safe,” Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker said in a news release. “We know that COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of having a place to call home, and this additional funding will help ensure everyone can find – and keep – a safe and secure roof over their head.”