Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker recently announced nearly $1.5 million in funding for local social services.
Walker said Bruce County will receive $680,180 in social services relief funding for emergency shelters, homelessness prevention and rent relief.
Grey County is to receive $793,347 in funding for rent relief and capital funding for retrofits to existing buildings for transitional housing and self-contained apartments.
“Our government is investing in important projects like these to help protect our most vulnerable citizens from COVID-19,” Walker said in a media release Friday. “We’re working hand-in-hand with our partners to make sure they have the tools and flexibility they need to keep people safe.”
The provincial funding is part of the government’s $510 million investment meant to help protect the health and safety of the province’s most vulnerable people.
Funding will be delivered through the Social Services Relief Fund and will go toward protecting and supporting homeless shelter staff and residents, creating or renovating over 1,500 housing units, expanding rent support programs and creating longer-term housing solutions, the media release stated.
Toni McGregor Callaghan, executive director of the Safe ‘n Sound drop-in centre in Owen Sound, said she knows of nine people living in tents in the city right now.
McGregor Callaghan started in her role in February, so pandemic housing needs has been her only experience, but she said the number of nights in which people are calling the support line or dropping in looking for a place to stay has increased recently.
There is no dedicated homeless shelter in the area, so those people are offered emergency shelter in a local motel. These programs are funded through the province’s Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative. However, the program is only available to those from the area.
People just travelling through, looking for work, or escaping the high COVID-19 case numbers in larger city centres are not eligible for the emergency shelter program. That has created a gap of unmet needs for some this summer, McGregor Callaghan said.
She said this winter will be especially hard for those without a place to stay as typical places for vulnerable people to stay warm are either closed to the public or limiting the number of patrons inside at one time.
In March, the Social Services Relief Fund was launched in Ontario with an initial $148 million investment to protect the province’s homeless and vulnerable population in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.
An additional $150 million was late committed in July to improve shelters and create opportunities for longer-term housing. And in August another $212 million in funding was committed.
Meanwhile, in September the provincial government passed the Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act, which freezes rent in 2021 for the majority of the province’s 1.7 million renters in rent-controlled and non-rent controlled residential units.