Sudbury winter shelter funding may be thwarted by election

The issue of homelessness will be taking centre stage at a number of Sudbury city council meetings happening Monday.
Sudbury city council only meets once a month during the summer. But they are marathon affairs. The CBC's Erik White previews what will be on the agenda over the next two days. 5:59

The issue of homelessness has taken centre stage at a number of Sudbury city council meetings happening Monday.

Sudbury's community services committee learned the number of people who slept in city shelters in 2013 was 959, down from 1165 in 2012.

A total of 917 people currently remain on the list for affordable housing.

Coun. Claude Berthiaume pointed to a loss of rooming houses in Sudbury, which he said will tighten the city's housing crunch this winter.

City staff reported Sudbury's Out of the Cold program — which ran for six weeks and cost $47,000 — was "successful," and plans are in the works for a second program this winter. 

City council is asking staff to study options for creating a permanent winter shelter, to help provide refuge for the homeless on frigid nights. That report is expected to be prepared by the fall.

But Berthiaume expressed concern the timing of the report might be too close to the election for council to vote in funding for the shelter.

“It looks like we’re going to be a lame duck council,” Berthiaume said. “It will be hard to make decisions on any expenditure.”

The issue of an emergency shelter proved contentious this past winter, with protesters disrupting several council meetings, demanding the city provide an “out of the cold” program.

After weeks of demands, the city gave approval for a special temporary shelter, which opened at the Salvation Army, downtown.

Councillors also received an update on the ongoing research into creating a “harm reduction shelter,” also known as a “wet shelter.” 

Follow CBC News reporter Erik White on Twitter @erikjwhite for the latest from city council.


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