Update on Homelessness Service

full bike rack

London Street Footbridge at dusk

Peterborough, ON - In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in preparation for the winter, the City has been working collaboratively with community partner agencies to help people in the community who are in need of housing or emergency shelter.

A substantial adjustment to the emergency shelter network will be the conversion of the overnight overflow shelter bed program into a 24/7 emergency shelter in a former City administrative office building.

The overflow shelter on Wolfe Street will provide 40 shelter beds, open 24/7 so individuals will have somewhere to access and be connected to supports, alongside Brock Mission, Cameron House, and YES Shelter for Youth and Families. Prior to the investment in the Wolfe Street location, the overall shelter system capacity was 76 individuals. With the addition of the Wolfe Street location, the shelter capacity will increase to accommodate about 100 individuals experiencing homelessness. In addition, there is also space in the shelter system to support up to 6 families experiencing homelessness.

”Our community is working together and reaching out to help our fellow residents who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless,” Mayor Diane Therrien said. “There’s a great need in our community. We don’t want to leave anyone behind or outside. We’re investing in housing and in emergency shelters as we work to close that gap. We’re here to help.”

“These investments in emergency shelters and housing are a reflection of who we are as a community. People are struggling during these difficult times. Housing is difficult to find and too expensive for far too many. While housing first is our goal, emergency shelters are a necessity so that no one has to go without a roof over their heads,” said Councillor Keith Riel, the Social Services Portfolio chair on Council.

Shelter capacity has been affected by the implementation of new safety protocols and the installation of medical grade dividers to protect the health of clients and staff at the emergency shelters.

The current usage of shelter network space is at 83% for the month of October, but this number fluctuates based on numerous factors. The additional capacity with the Wolfe Street location will ensure that the shelter system can meet the demand, especially over the winter months ahead and with the impact of COVID-19.

The City acknowledges that expanding shelter capacity by creating a new 24/7 shelter isn’t a permanent solution, but with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the shelter system, the system is pivoting to better meet the needs of individuals in the community.

The new Wolfe Street location is expected to open January 4, 2021 following renovations at the former City administrative office building.

Investments in Homelessness System Resources & Supports

  • Secured $3 million in provincial funding through the Social Services Relief Fund to support homelessness individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding is being used to continue the City’s Homelessness COVID-19 Response Plan in partnership with Peterborough Public Health and local community partners, which includes the provision of an isolation space and supports.
  • Secured $237,000 from Ministry of Health funding to support isolation and  funding to provide intensive case management for individuals who are homeless being supported to self-isolated.
  • Creatively finding ways to re-allocate existing funding to make it easier and quicker to move individuals from homelessness to housing (Rapid Rehousing project supported 40 individuals to move into housing during COVID-19 through a re-allocation of existing funding; expanding eligibility for Housing Stability Fund).
  • Designated two separate houses to homeless families through the By-Name Priority List. One building is still undergoing renovations which are expected to be completed by the New Year, while the other building has been filled with 3 families (9 individuals) who have been successfully housed since October.
  • Designated $305,000 in Canada Ontario Housing Benefit to individuals experiencing homelessness or who are at-risk of losing their housing.
  • Partnered with the United Way to develop strategies for COVID-19 responses.
  • Continuation of the isolation site and supports to ensure homeless clients and shelter staff can be kept safe, while supporting individuals to self-isolate safely and with dignity.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a collective community approach between shelters, the City and Peterborough Public Health to develop a strong isolation plan for clients and staff at shelters to keep everyone safe.

Since March, there have been over 160 stays using isolation spaces, where individuals who are experiencing homeless are connected to supports and provided a place to self-isolate safely and with dignity. The isolation space also supports the overall safety of the larger community. The incredible success story of these strong community partnerships and isolation space is that Peterborough hasn’t had a positive COVID-19 case in the shelter system.

Housing-Focused System & Data Driven Decisions

Community partner agencies and Social Services offer assistance to people who use emergency shelters, including helping them access support programs and building housing plans. It’s a housing-focused shelter network that works with people who use shelters to help them find housing. The time it takes to access housing can depend on the complexity of support that’s needed to maintain housing, the availability of housing, and the participation of the client. Ultimately, the goal is housing first. While providing emergency shelter will likely always be necessary, the expectation is that by working together with community partner agencies, the community can collectively increase access to housing and decrease demand for shelter beds.

In partnership with Built For Zero-Peterborough, the community’s homelessness system is better positioned to plan for long-term solutions. With HIFIS (Homelessness Individual and Family Information System), the implementation of Coordinated Access System and the By-Name Priority List, there is real-time, updated data that provides a better understanding of what is happening in the homelessness system.

This updated data will be used to drive decisions, inform future investments, and continue to improve the capacity of the homelessness system.  The City of Peterborough has committed to ending chronic homelessness by 2025 and together with dedicated community partners, it is getting closer to that goal every day.

In 2019, there were 275 shifts from homelessness to housing. Between January to October 2020, there has already been 387 shifts from homelessness to housing. Of those shifts, 37% were individuals who were chronically homeless (had been homelessness for 6 months or more within the last 12 months). It is important to highlight that of those 387 shifts that have happened within 2020 so far, 50% happened from April to October- that’s 194 shifts from homelessness to housing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The significance of this accomplishment cannot be underestimated.

For more information about the Emergency Shelter Network and how to access services, please https://www.peterborough.ca/en/city-services/housing-and-shelter.aspx.

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For additional information, members of the media are invited to contact the undersigned:

Brendan Wedley, Manager of Communication Services

City of Peterborough

705-742-7777 ext. 1636