Windsor

Victoria Manor feeling the pinch of province's homelessness funding cuts

The province previously deferred approximately $500,000 in funding to municipal homelessness prevention programs.

The province is set to reduce its funding for Windsor's homelessness programs by roughly $500K

Victoria Manor executive director Leigh Vachon says her organization has to scale back five beds due to provincial funding cuts. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Leigh Vachon says that five people can no longer be housed at Windsor's Victoria Manor, as a result of provincial funding cuts to municipal homelessness programs.

Victoria Manor is Windsor's largest supportive housing program, previously offering 81 beds to individuals experiencing homelessness across the city. 

As a result of the Province of Ontario's deferral of $537,000 in funding to the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI), that count has been reduced to 76.

Victoria Manor operates as a for-profit entity and Vachon said the organization could see revenues decline by $4,000 to $5,000 per month, "in an environment where we're already struggling to take care of the people that we take care of with the current per diem as it's set."

The city currently provides about $55 in subsidies to organizations like Victoria Manor. 

Vachon added it's not just Windsorites in need who will be affected by the province's funding cuts — as staff will also feel the pinch.

"Our staff don't get paid as they should," said Vachon, adding Victoria Manor's staffing costs account for between 55 per cent and 60 per cent of annual costs. "They absolutely need to be paid better."

Won't turn away people in need

Despite the cuts, Vachon remains adamant her organization won't turn away Windsorites who need a place to stay.

"We will not turn five people out onto the street," she said. "That's just not something that we would ever do."

Victoria Manor is currently capable of housing approximately 112 people — 76 of whom are subsidized by funding sources, like the CHPI.

"This is not true transitional housing, this is not shelter housing, this is people in and out of hospital, some interactions with jail … [people who have been] institutionalized in different ways," said Vachon, adding that even though Victoria Manor is capable of providing aid, the facility can be doing more to support the community.

We will not turn five people onto the street- Leigh Vachon, executive director, Victoria Manor

"We do what we can, the best we can, but there's a whole lot more we should be doing to support our people."

Victoria House would need $60 worth of subsidies per day to operate at "good" levels, according to Vachon. 

"Sixty two dollars would be great, that would help us considerably," said Vachon.

Remaining hopeful

For now, Vachon says Victoria Manor will make due with the funding it has received so far — especially since the province indicated that previously-promised funding would return in a year's time. 

Still, that's time Victoria Manor might not have.

"We're at risk of — our owners have said — potentially bankruptcy in two years, if things continue on the way that they're on," explained Vachon. "

For its part, Vachon said she'd like to see the city "top up" its funding. 

"There's other municipalities who don't run these programs and that's a shame, because those communities have bigger shelters, higher homelessness rates," she said. "I'm very grateful for this program, but there is an opportunity for the mayor and council to make a motion to fill the gap that's been cut."

'A trickle effect'

Ron Dunn is the director of community relations with the Windsor Downtown Mission.

He explained there's a trickle effect which takes place when funding cuts occur.

"There's 21 beds being reduced across the city and the county … so my fear is that those people, 21 of them or more, will end up at the Mission or places like the Mission," said Dunn.

Ron Dunn says there's a trickle effect whenever funding cuts affect social services. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Dunn added cities are witnessing a mental health, addiction and affordable housing crisis, and federal and provincial governments should be providing more funding.

"This really should be a state of emergency by now," said Dunn, who added that "as many people or more" are dying from the opioid crisis as the SARS epidemic. 

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