The province's Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs heard pre-budget submissions in Thunder Bay Wednesday from more than 20 organizations.
Shelter House executive director Patty Hajdu focused on the need for affordable housing.
"Recently we had a young woman who had been struggling for a long time with substance use and finally made the very brave leap into treatment," she told the panel of MPPs from all major political parties.
"She went away to treatment for four weeks and when she was discharged, she was discharged back to Shelter House. There were no accommodating support services for her. There were no spots in any kind of transitional housing available to her. Within 48 hours she was using substances again."
Hajdu pointed out that, in Thunder Bay, the vacancy rate is hovering around one percent and "landlords are now reducing their desire to offer subsidized space because … they are able to get full market value without any support."
She noted there are some social service agencies in town that can provide supportive living for people battling substance abuse, but they can't get any landlords to sign on because of the tight rental market.
"There's also an insufficient range of housing," Hajdu continued.
"So while there may be a number of family units, for example, in the subsidized market, most of the individuals we see need single units."
And then there is the problem of racial profiling, Hajdu added.
"I would say 80 per cent of our residents are aboriginal and when they give their names over the phone, many of them … are told the space is taken and not to even bother coming to see it," she said.
"It's extremely challenging for people that are homeless to get out of a home shelter environment."
The executive director at New Starts for Women, a shelter for abused women in Red Lake, also pointed to the need for more affordable housing.
"I struggle everyday when I see women leave the shelter and return to abusive partners because she is unable to find safe, affordable housing," said Kathy Campbell as she made her presentation to the committee via teleconference.
"If a woman is required to keep returning to the abuser … to have a roof over her head, we're not providing a safe place for that woman."
Campbell estimated about 80 per cent of the women that leave New Starts for Women come back repeatedly, "often times more abused than the time prior."