Lambton to hold homelessness summit

Tents, set up beside the Inn of the Good Shepherd in the summer, were recently removed. Lambton officials say in August, 52 people were sleeping rough in the county. County officials say some may be living rough in Petrolia

Lambton is ‘upping its game’ to help people without homes through the winter.

Lambton County will be organizing a summit on homelessness early in 2023 bringing all of the organizations who work with people in crisis and politicians to find ways to improve the help provided.

In April, county staff estimated there were 170 people who were homeless in the county with 50 sleeping outside without shelter.

The provincial and federal governments have provided more funding to help – during the pandemic, Lambton received over $11.6 million in funding for emergency shelter.

But, in a report to county councillors in October, officials say there are still many people without homes, including 52 in August who were sleeping in the rough. “The scarcity of affordable, safe housing and the low Social Assistance rates that have not seen an increase since 2017 exacerbate the situation. Further, the opioid crisis and untreated mental health concerns have a cyclical relationship with experiences of homelessness and have compounded the crisis.”

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley asked for the summit saying in the past, summits on the economy and energy produced results.

Bradley says while plans are already in place to help people living rough, says the summit will be “the bringing together many of the people in the community, many organizations and starting to have a discussion on these issues and how we’re going to get through this winter.

“I think, from anecdotal information, that we need to up our game. And we need to have a lot of groups talking to each other. And I can tell you in the urban area, there’s still a lack of understanding of what the role of the county is, and its key critical issues on the funding.”

St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold agreed, adding MPs and MPPs have to be involved in the discussion, particularly since the federal government recently announced up to 500,000 immigrants will be coming to Canada by 2025.

“When you start looking at bringing in the amount of people that will fill the city of Windsor year, over year over year, and yet there’s not the money for the infrastructure to back that up, whether it’s doctors, hospitals, schools, or any of those things, we have an issue that’s got to be addressed. And I think the only way we’re going to have an address locally is make sure that our MPs are here with us going through this process,” says Arnold.

In Lambton

• Over 2,600 shelter stays have been supported through Lambton emergency housing system
• Over 1,230 individuals have stayed in emergency housing
• The county helped 529 individuals find homes
• 311 individuals experiencing homelessness moved to more permanent housing
• 268 individuals have been placed into permanent housing through intensive housing case management by the county
• 158 households secured or maintained housing through the Rental Assistance Program.