Peterborough city council to consider funding increase for Wolfe St. overflow shelter

Peterborough city council will consider staff recommendations to increase funding and subsequently lengthen the operation of its 24-hour emergency overflow shelter on Wolfe Street.

Several reports addressing homelessness issues will be presented to city council on Monday.

One of the staff recommendations is for the 40-bed overflow shelter at 210 Wolfe St. to operate annually for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from November to April. From May to October, it would operate 12 hours overnight.

If approved, the operation would cost the city $771,000 annually — an additional $103,500 more than the 2023 draft budget of $667,500 for the shelter, which first opened in January 2021 to help address spacing at other shelters and homelessness amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city’s budget deliberations will be held in January.

An extensive staff report notes that the increased cost is due to provincial funding ending in December for the shelter. In July 2022, city council approved an additional $267,000 to keep the shelter running until March 31, 2023, instead of ending on Dec. 31, 2022.

Other recommendations from staff include:

  • a $100,000 increase to the Emergency Shelter Operations budget for the provision of emergency motel rooms to increase the capacity of the shelter system when needed;
  • a $117,000 increase to the Shelter and Homelessness Diversion (Rapid Rehousing Program) funding above what is proposed in the 2023 draft budget to continue the Rapid Rehousing Initiative
  • requesting the County of Peterborough fund an additional $320,500 required to support recommendations the three recommendations

The city says in 2021, the overflow shelter had about 75 average nightly users.

“The overflow shelter and many other programs related to the pandemic response to homelessness were funded by five rounds of Social Service Relief Funding from the province totalling $8,801,710,” said Sheldon Laidman, commissioner of Community Services.

“This funding is no longer available to the City for 2023 and therefore, if these programs and services are to continue, they must be funded by the municipality.”

The report notes the draft 2023 Housing and Homelessness budget includes a $328,286 net increase from 2022 which correlates to a 5.7 per cent increase.

The city funds 106 beds at four shelters — Brock Mission, Cameron House, the Youth Emergency Shelter for youth and families, and the Wolfe Street overflow site — for over $1.9 million. Funding includes over $1 million from the province, $694,000 from the city and over $208,000 from the county.

The report says there are currently 354 persons on the “By Name Priority List” (BNPL) experiencing homelessness — defined as persons who are in an emergency shelter, who are sleeping outside, or who are precariously housed and consider themselves homeless. Of the 354 persons, 174 individuals are considered chronically homeless on the BNPL.

For the past month, a tent encampment has been set up across from the Wolfe Street shelter.

“The increase is almost entirely related to the loss of provincial funding for homelessness programming and the need to now fund homeless programs begun during the pandemic from the municipal tax base,” Laidman said.

“City staff were still not able to include all of the items that would keep the status quo to the level of service that has been delivered during the pandemic. While there are other needs and ideas in the community for further services, the city’s priority is not to lose the services we do provide that are still needed.”

The shelter is in Town Ward. New ward councillors Joy Lachica and Alex Bierk are expected to present motions to council to address homelessness.

Lachica’s motion will ask staff to study and file a report by Jan. 23 on a “Housing First” model as a potential long-term solution for homelessness in Peterborough. Lachica’s motion notes housing models used in Thunder Bay, Ont., Medicine Hat, Alta., and Helsinki, Finland.

A multi-request motion from Bierk includes asking city council to approve a grant of $100,000 from the Social Services Reserve to community partners — through One City Peterborough — for an “emergency winter response” for the period of Jan. 5, 2023, to April 30.

Bierk also wants council to endorse and support the Peterborough Action for Tiny Homes (PATH), which aims to build 15 sleeping cabins but needs permission from the city. Bierk’s motion asks for a temporary use bylaw along with exemption and waivers of site plans and development fees for PATH to launch its pilot project at 834 Park Street — on the land of the former United Canadian Malt plant.

The motion asks staff to “expedite” the review of PATH’s application in order to “bring it forward to the first possible public meeting and council date for a decision after submission.”

Mayor Jeff Leal and council meet on Monday for finance and general committee meetings.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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