Peterborough officials say overflow shelter beds opened at Peterborough Public Library are seeing sparse use.
On Monday morning, city officials delivered results of a meeting last week chaired by Mayor Diane Therrien and Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef to address the growing number of homeless suddenly tenting on municipal properties following the abrupt closure of the Warming Room homeless shelter at the start of July.
The city said outreach workers interview a number of people living in tents in Victoria Park on Water Street to find out why they were there when other shelter options are available. Dorothy Oliver, the city’s program manager, homelessness and addictions, says the number of people living in tents in Victoria Park has dropped recently from 50 to 30.
“Some of them could be there for solidarity reasons,” said Oliver. “It could be people feel safer with their own four walls versus in a shelter room with 30 or 40 cots in one room. But honestly, people have all kinds of reasons for living outdoors this time of year.”
The city would like the displaced and homeless to transition from living in a tent, for example, to finding a permanent dwelling. But to do that, they must get on a list of those looking for a home and they do that by registering a shelter or at the library overflow beds.
“They will be dealing with an outreach worker and getting on a list explaining what their situation is and what the are looking for for a more permanent housing situation,” said Sandra Clancy, the city’s CAO. “Even overflow and shelter beds are a band-aid solution to the next step. There are some opportunities where people go directly from a tent, or outside, to a housing solution but the only way we can help them do that is to know who they are and what they are looking for.”
Oliver says one of the biggest issues is finding space for a future housing.
“We would like it to be centrally located because all the supports and services people are looking for should be centrally located and one of the biggest barriers is finding a space that meets both building codes and fire codes so people can stay and sleep overnight,” she said.
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