Grey County council on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. DENIS LANGLOIS/THE SUN TIMES
A homelessness prevention initiative in Grey County is receiving close to $1.9 million in provincial funding for the 2019-20 fiscal year.On Thursday, Grey County council approved an investment plan to determine how the funds earmarked for the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative will be dispersed throughout the community.Director of Housing Anne Marie Shaw said the allocation for the year, which begins April 1, is up about $80,000 from the 2018-19 year. The initiative is 100 per cent funded by the province.Shaw said the county is in the midst of a consultation on its 10-year housing and homelessness plan, so some funds are available this year in case there are needs identified through that work. There is also the ability to move funds between programs should it be required.“If there are any gaps in services or any way that we can improve services, we will have some funding to do that,” said Shaw. “The funding that we do receive definitely goes to our most vulnerable and providing services for them so that we can help with homelessness or with preventing homelessness.”The largest budget line in the initiative will see $620,000 go towards four providers who supply housing for an average of 70 Grey County residents per month along with support services such as medication management, laundry services and meals. The providers include Ayton Residential Lodge, Kent Residential Home, Inglewood Villa and Second Avenue Lodge.Another $540,000 will go towards the Sustainable Housing Benefit, which provides financial aid to individuals at risk of homelessness to find or maintain affordable housing. In 2018, the SHB provided just under $500,000 in financial assistance to 1,110 households.Other programs the initiative funds include the CMHA Outreach pilot program, which provides support sessions for tenants as well as staff, the Y Homelessness Prevention Program, which assists clients with finding or maintaining affordable housing, and the Y Emergency Housing Program, which in 2018 provided emergency accommodation for 406 people/households.The funding also covers a homelessness outreach worker, transitional housing initiatives and a community enhancement program for local initiatives throughout the county that supply meals, transportation, good food boxes, heating funds, furnishings and other needs.“Housing and homelessness is a very complex problem and the county alone can’t provide those services so we always look to provide and work with our partners in the community for those services,” said Shaw.The county is currently at the five-year mark of its 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan with the consultation for an update currently underway and a draft plan expected to be brought forward to council in May.Shaw said the program is having its desired effect of helping some of the county’s most vulnerable people as well as provide measures to prevent people from becoming homeless.Shaw said they are awaiting the next provincial budget to see where funding will be at for the 2020-21 fiscal year.“We are hopeful that the funding will continue at the same level or more,” said Shaw.