Province cuts promised $500k of funding for Windsor's homelessness programs

Funding the City of Windsor gets from the provincial Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative has been reduced.

'There's not a lot of extra dollars'

Jennifer Tanner, manager of homelessness and housing support for the City of Windsor, says they had to go back to the drawing board. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The City of Windsor is cutting back a number of programs after money promised for this year's budget was slashed by half a million dollars.

City administration learned in April that a previously committed $537,000 increase in the Province of Ontario's Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) would be deferred by a year. 

That change has forced the city to revise some services they offer, including cutting a program used by 500 households in 2018 that helped furnish apartments for people exiting homelessness.

"We had to go back to the drawing board," said Jennifer Tanner, manager of homelessness and housing support for the City of Windsor.

The city received about $10-million in 2018-19 through the CHPI, with a $537,000 budget increase in the last two years. 

"We had already established our budget. We had to make some tough decisions."

Money promised for next year

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said base funding for the city through the CHPI program will continue this year "despite significant provincial fiscal challenges."

The change represents a five per cent reduction in what the City of Windsor expected in funding.

"There will be an increase in CHPI to a new base funding for all Services Managers beginning in 2020-21. As a result the new base funding for the City of Windsor will increase by $537,495 in 2020-21," said spokesperson Conrad Spezowka.

A new poster campaign aims to help people living on Windsor's street connect with help and shelter. (urbanistyqg/Twitter)

According to Tanner, the city has seen 200 per cent more families in need of emergency shelter during just the last two years alone.

"The funding we receive is already very well spent," said Tanner. "There's not a lot of extra dollars."

21 beds no longer funded, Keep the Heat program reduced

Tanner's group had cut back programs offered — looking for changes that would impact the least amount of people, according to Tanner.

That includes:

  • Reduction in Housing with Supports program: A freeze on new applicants until a level of savings has been reached, meaning 21 spaces will no longer be funded by the city.
  • Suspension of Housing Essentials fund: The program offered beds, fridges, etc. for those exiting homeless shelters and was used by about 500 people in 2015.
  • Reduction in Keep the Heat program: A $50,000 reduction in the utilities assistance program, meaning some people who were previously approved for the program may be denied.

Tanner said cutting the Keep the Heat program could result in the city denying applications during the winter if it runs out of money.

Tanner said while the city is always looking for ways to improve their efficiencies, making up $500,000 is going to be tough.

Despite the province's promise to increase funding next year, Tanner said the city's not ready to commit to reinstating specific programs on the chopping block.

"We don't want to commit to something we may not be able to deliver on," said Tanner. "As we're planning ahead for 2020, we'll see what we can do to advocate for more funding."


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