A jobs summit that can match workers with available jobs in the region is a better way to fight homelessness and fix the problem of a lack of affordable housing, according to regional councillor Sean Strickland.

"In our community right now there’s hundreds of jobs for software programmers that are going wanting for example.  Meanwhile, we have 8,000 people on our welfare caseload," Strickland told Craig Norris in an interview on The Morning Edition Tuesday.  

"How do you take those folks and re-skill them for the modern economy? I’m not suggesting they’re going to be computer programmers, but there’s other jobs," he said, citing the food processing industry as an example.

Strickland is also the community services committee chair for the regional government. He envisions a job summit where private industry, municipal and other layers of government come up with ways to re-train people who are unemployed and on welfare to help them get the jobs that are available in the region.

"If we were to continue along this path, that means government’s got to continue to build more and more and more and more affordable housing, because more and more people are going to get left behind as we go through the next recession," said Strickland.

"We need to have a broader discussion about how do we take people that have been dislocated and retrain them for the jobs of today?"

Housing waitlists 

According to the Ontario Non-Profit Housing association report, 156,358 households were waiting for affordable housing in Ontario as of December 31, 2011.

A report on homelessness released by the region earlier this week said there were 3,162 households on the Community Housing Waiting List in 2012, a 2 per cent increase from 2008. However in the same time period, the number of community housing units grew by 3 per cent.

A family that wants to rent a community housing unit and needs three bedrooms or more will be on the wait list for two years or longer, while someone waiting for a bachelor or one bedroom faces a four to six year wait.

Strickland says the region has brought 1000 units of affordable housing to market and another 500 will be available soon.

Jobs summit 

Strickland is also looking to other levels of government to help the region deal with homelessness. He cited a lack of provincial and national housing strategies as one of the solutions he’d like to see.

"We’ll do what we can but we can’t afford to solve this problem based on the local tax base. I’m not offputting to higher levels government, I think they have a role to play, we have a role to play," he said.

Strickland said he organized a job summit along with regional staff and council a few years ago, but would like to see another one, because he sees an increasing number of people "left behind."

"We could do more affordable housing, and putting more money and supporting people, which is needed, but that’s not a long-term solution to the problem," said Strickland.