Windsor's homeless crisis may be caused by city's affordable reputation

Shelters in the city are reporting growing numbers of people in need. And according to the City of Windsor, people may be choosing to come to Windsor for all the wrong reasons.

Occupancy at the Downtown Mission doubled in the month of August

Windsor's homeless population is rising fast as some of the city's largest shelters are reporting major spikes in occupancy. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Shelters in Windsor are reporting growing numbers of people in need — and it may be because people are coming to Windsor for all the wrong reasons.

Occupancy at the Downtown Mission has doubled in the month of August and the number of single men who stay at the Salvation Army has risen 17 per cent.

Also, the number of families who stay at the Welcome Centre Shelter for Women have increased by 70 per cent, with a 27 per cent rise for single women from last year.

Not as affordable as some may think

According to Kelly Goz, coordinator for the city's housing administration and development services, people are coming here because they have a false idea about the affordability of Windsor homes but she says that notion might not be true.

"If somebody's on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability and is trying to move here and get a one-bedroom apartment, one-bedroom apartments are going around $900 to $1,000 when you're getting less than $400 a month sometimes for shelter," said Goz.

But she says there is support for Windsor's homeless community.

Kelly Goz, coordinator of housing administration and development services, says the City of Windsor is making investments to address the city's homelessness crisis. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

At the beginning of 2018, the city invested in increasing the number of street outreach workers who directly engage with homeless people.

The City of Windsor is also continuing to make daily updates to the by-names prioritized list, which provides every homeless person's name and background to social agencies, like the Canadian Mental Health Association and Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare​'s Transitional Stability Centre.

"So as those agencies are able to all get together on a weekly basis and understand where so-and-so is ... somebody around the table, most often than not, have seen them. We have more eyes on the ground." said Goz, adding the biggest challenge for Windsor's homeless population is finding affordable housing.

Windsor 'on the right track'

Tim Richter, president and CEO of the Calgary-based Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, said Windsor is "on the right track" in addressing the city's homelessness crisis. He said Windsor has "unparalleled data" when matched up with other cities.

But for Richter, Windsor's main reason for the homelessness crisis is, quite simply, a lack of housing.

Tim Richter is the president and CEO of the Calgary-based Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

He suggests social agencies in Windsor focus on a Housing First model — a philosophy which believes challenges like addiction and mental health problems are best addressed once a person has a home. Once stable housing has been provided, individualized supports and services can be made available afterward.

Richter encourages Windsor to look at the current crisis as an opportunity to make decisions based on hard data.

"It's too easy for us to fall into a trap based on anecdotal [evidence] or political pressure ... Let's make decisions based on data and really focus on creating that support."


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