Ontario hits pause on homelessness count

ESPANOLA – The Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board (DSB) conducted a survey on homelessness across the region in 2018, fulfilling one of the requirements of the Housing Services Act 2011, but in a letter from Janet Hope, assistant deputy minister with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, thanking the DSB for working with them to conduct the province-wide survey and noting it was an “important first step,” the ministry announced that due to “gaps and limitations in the enumeration approach and resulting data collected,” the ministry had recognized “that there are opportunities to improve the enumeration approach.”

For those reasons, the letter continues, “the ministry will pause the requirement for service managers to conduct local homelessness enumeration to give us time to review in more detail future enumeration requirements and ensure the data collected will be used to improve programs and outcomes for those experiencing homelessness.”

The letter went on to note that the province remains committed to “improving outcomes for Ontario’s most vulnerable people” and pointed to the province providing more than $1 billion in 2019-2020 to “help sustain, repair and grow community housing in Ontario and help end homelessness.” Further, the letter pointed to the 2019 budget as having “reconfirmed the province’s focus on mental health and addiction issues.”

The normal enumeration process was originally to take place every two years, with the next homeless count to take place in 2020.

DSB CAO Fern Dominelli noted that the halt was discussed at the Northern Ontario Service Delivers Association (NOSDA). “It was addressed at NOSDA, it (the pause) sort of defeats the purpose if we are not going to do it regularly.”

“A lot of municipalities didn’t even know they had homeless,” said DSB chair Les Gamble. “Turns out they do.”