Despite promises from the previous provincial government to increase funding levels for homelessness prevention, the current Progressive Conservative government has opted to freeze Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) funding at last year’s levels.
That leaves the County of Simcoe scrambling to make up the difference.
On Tuesday at county's committee of the whole meeting, councillors voted to make up the difference by cost-sharing the $551,000 required to bridge the gap with the separated cities of Barrie and Orillia.
“Our communities planned with us in good faith over the past couple of years and we want to try to be able to honour those commitments,” said Jan Janssen, the county's director of children and community services.
In 2017, the previous Liberal government committed to providing the county with almost $8.1 million for homelessness programs in 2019-20.
In April, the county received word from the Doug Ford government that the funding would instead be frozen at 2018-19 levels, which was just over $7.5 million.
The announcement the county would be receiving less than anticipated also forced them to put some projects on hold.
During the committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman had concerns that only $4.4 million of the funding had been allocated to homelessness locally.
“Why is this report today only allocating $4.5 million of the $7.5 million? The concerns I have with that are, Number 1, asking for additional funding without knowing what the allocations would be. It seems a little premature,” said Lehman. “Could staff provide some (information) on why they felt they need to hold back $3 million at this time for a strategic review? Why isn’t it going into the communities today?”
Janssen responded that all agencies that are receiving funding were sent a questionnaire regarding how they work with other agencies. She told council they were still waiting to correspond with a few more agencies before doling out the final amounts.
“We wanted to see how those community partnerships are really functioning. We didn’t think it was fair process to only have met with a portion of these service providers,” Janssen said.
Lehman lamented that the funding freezes and cuts from the provincial government are coming fast and furious from all sides.
“This house has dealt with this many times, where we make an initial investment, but if that investment doesn’t continue then it very quickly becomes a huge challenge for the organization because they lose the ability to continue with it,” he said.
How much will local organizations be receiving under CHPI for 2019-20?
- Canadian Mental Health Association - $72,160
- Community Connection South Georgian Bay - $80,000
- Couchiching Jubilee House - $81,840
- Elizabeth Fry Society - $210,453
- Home Horizon Georgian Triangle - $87,800
- John Howard Society of Simcoe County - $52,020
- Krasman Centre - $15,000
- LOFT Community Services - $85,000
- North Simcoe Emergency Shelter Now - $105,000
- Orillia Lighthouse - $290,394
- Redwood Park Communities - $82,850
- Rosewood Shelter - $43,528
- Simcoe Community Services (Empower Simcoe) - $1,075,020
- South Simcoe Community Info Centre (CONTACT) - $94,700
- The Biminaawzogin Regi Aboriginal Women’s Circle - $83,327
- The David Busby Street Centre - $465,620
- The Guesthouse Shelter - $195,890
- The Salvation Army Barrie - $621,430
- The Salvation Army Midland - $40,000
- The Salvation Army Orillia - $15,300
- The Samaritan House - $83,327
- Youth Haven - $605,404
TOTAL - $4,486,063
Source: County of Simcoe staff report Schedule 1 to CCW 2019-243