There just aren't enough affordable places to live in Windsor-Essex, says community agency
A registry that keeps track of the homeless people in Windsor-Essex has reached about 500 individuals and families — more than the number of available affordable homes.
That's according to Joyce Zuk, executive director of Family Services Windsor-Essex.
"There's simply not enough places for people to live," she said. "We haven't had an investment in affordable housing in Essex County in over 20 years."
Not only that, there are also more than 4,000 people on the central housing registry, where individuals "are at risk for being homeless at any time" because they are spending more than the recommended amount on living, Zuk said.
In July, Windsor city council approved a project to construct 150 affordable housing units in the city's east end, which is expected to be a $39-million project.
Zuk said that announcement was welcome; however, to immediately address the homelessness problem, there needs to be at least 500 more units.
In her time working with community partners to house chronically homeless people through the Housing First program, it's become more difficult to find available units.
Sometimes landlords will ask for police clearance checks or say the unit is no longer available after they "take a look at the person we're working with," said Zuk.
Part of the problem is that the housing market has tightened and the prices of homes have gone up, according to Zuk, which can be a tough conversation to have.
Homeowners are enjoying the benefits of the prices, but "there are other things that happen as a result of an increase in that housing price," she said.
However difficult, the conversation about homelessness will continue at a public forum held by the Homeless Coalition on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Ciociaro Club. Municipal election candidates — city and county — will be invited to the event.