Thunder Bay homelessness program receives provincial recognition

The Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board has received recognition from a provincial organization for its project to help combat homelessness in the city.

Program has placed 52 people in housing with no evictions, social services board says

Bill Bradica, CAO of the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board, says the program was founded with the deliberate decision to fix the region's chronic homelessness problem. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

The Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board (TBDSSAB) has received recognition from a provincial organization for its project to help combat homelessness in the northwestern Ontario city.

The Ontario Municipal Social Services Association honoured the DSSAB, with a province-wide award, for its high-needs homelessness program. 

The initiative, which started in 2016, uses data analysis to identify people who are chronically homeless and works to quickly find them proper housing.

Bill Bradica, chief administrative officer of DSSAB, told CBC Radio's Superior Morning that the program was founded with the deliberate decision to fix a chronic problem in the region. 
Thanks to a new initiative by the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board, 52 formerly homeless people now have a safe place to live. CAO Bill Bradica says by making a commitment that every third vacancy will be geared towards homeless people, it's made a big difference. 8:36

"From my perspective, it was enough is enough. We really have to do something more substantive here to help these individuals and get them housed because a lot of people were just cycling in and out of the emergency shelters," he said.

1 in 3 vacancies filled by new program

The program also tries to reduce the strain on Thunder Bay's two overcrowded emergency shelters.

It works by having a tenant support outreach worker visit the emergency shelters and food banks to identify people who are homeless. Those individuals are then assessed using what's called the "service priority data assessment tool" to determine their acuity level. 

The staff have done an amazing job. I can't be prouder of the work that they've done.- Bill Bradica, CAO of the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board

One in three vacancies is now available to people using this program, with the remaining two thirds chosen through the traditional chronological policy.

Since its launch, the DSSAB says about 68 people have been placed on the waitlist, with 52 of those finding rent-geared-to-income housing, and no recorded evictions.

"The staff have done an amazing job. I can't be prouder of the work that they've done," Bradica said, adding that he believes the new program will save time and money.

"We think in the long run there will be significant savings achieved at least in terms of time with emergency services personnel as well as emergency room departments," he said.

"The board, through this year's budget, added another tenant support outreach worker, who is going to be covering the rest of the district as well. So we're looking to spread this out throughout the entire district."

With files from Superior Morning