Homeless addicts have few 'safe' spaces to live in Sudbury

A Sudbury man says more supplemental rent programs are needed in the city to help people with mental health and addictions issues.

'If we don’t have that safe space, then relapse or mental illness will run rampant,' Sudbury man says

Kenneth Lander says Sudbury's most vulnerable people are at risk if they don't get the housing help he did. (Marina von Stackelberg)

More supplemental rent programs are needed in the city to help people with mental health and addiction issues, a Sudbury man says.

Supplemental programs add portions of money towards someone's existing social assistance, allowing them to have more money for safe and suitable housing.

Kenneth Lander, who has battled addiction and depression for more than 10 years, said he turned his life around after he was given a spot in transitional housing within the last year.

Concerns over housing are one of the biggest stresses for people like him, he said.

"The places that are affordable to their income right now are places that are surrounded by people with these addictions and illnesses,” he said.

“If we don’t have that safe space, then relapse or mental illness will run rampant."

Lander added he's witnessed many friends in his situation relapse because of their living situation.

Recently a downtown rooming house was padlocked and slated for demolition, leaving about 40 people without a place to live.

'A crisis across the country'

The head of the Social Planning Council and former city councillor Janet Gasparini says buildings like the one being torn down aren't in good shape to live in but, for some, they're the only affordable option.     

"I guess the simple solution is for senior levels of government to take this seriously,” Gasparini said.

“Homelessness is not just an issue in Sudbury, it's a crisis across the country. For senior levels of government to take seriously that issue and start investing in the building of housing that's affordable — you can't expect the private market to take this on."

A Sudbury apartment building for low income people will be torn down and turned into a parking lot. Forty people are now out on the street. We spoke with Janet Gasparini from the Social Planning Council about the current challenges. 9:36

For people like Lander, sometimes their own families cannot — or do not want — to take homeless people in.

“My parents didn't want me back home,” he said. “So I was left homeless.”

Lander said he got lucky when he found housing with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“I owe my life to that program.”

Since 2007, the city of Sudbury has provided up to $600,000 a year to pay case-workers to help people find housing. The idea is, once someone has a roof over their head, they can start to deal with their other problems.

The idea falls short, however, when people can’t afford to pay their rent.

Many people are spending most of their monthly cheques on rent, according to Lianne Bergeron, who heads up Sudbury's Homelessness Network.

And that leaves them short on everything else. 


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