A program that aims to get people living in chronic homelessness off the street and out of shelters is getting a financial boost from the city.
London city council has budgeted money to top-up the provincial social housing allowance. The money would be paid directly to the landlords of people trying to get off the street.
The city is now is looking for an organization to administer the funds.
"This housing allowance is really one more way in which we can find the right housing in the right neighbourhood -- choice of housing, choice of neighbourhood. Thinking about where, in someone's past, they've done well in their housing, to try to build on the strength of the individual," said Jan Richardson, the city's manager of homeless prevention.
'This housing allowance is really one more way in which we can find the right housing in the right neighbourhood -- choice of housing, choice of neighbourhood.' - Jan Richardson, City of London
Many city agencies and organizations already participate in a program that identifies chronically homeless individuals and families, finds them housing and gives them almost 24-7 support with everything from addiction treatment to health services and education.
Ontario housing allowance not enough
About 200 people have been helped by the London program since its inception five years ago. But the city estimates there are 250 more chronically homeless people living in London right now.
The Ontario Works housing allowance, which is $375 a month for a single person, doesn't stretch very far.
So, in the multi-year budget, the city has allocated money to contribute to that housing allowance, giving people greater choice in where they live.
The new program is called the London Homeless Prevention Allowance. $400,000 has been allocated for the top-up allowance this year and $500,000 next year.
According to the request for proposals, the agency that would administer the funds should already be involved in the city's efforts to provide a housing-first approach to ending homelessness.
Housing first aims to get people off the street or out of shelter beds first, and then to deal with any problems — mental health, physical health, addiction or education — afterwards, with intensive wrap-around support.
"Housing is a fundamental human right. You don't have to be clean and sober to be housed," Richardson said. "What has to be in place is an intensive in-home support worker who works with you day in and day out, to assist in day-to-day activities and anchor people to their community. It's a very intense relationship.
"By providing a combination of the right housing and the right relationship, we're starting to see some incredible success. This allowance is one more way that we can strengthen an individual or family to find their way home."
The request for proposals is due August 21.
A question and answer session about the allowance is scheduled for Thursday at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall, in Committee Room 3.