Winter Help for Owen Sound's Homeless

A Proposed Solution to House Homeless Residents

The Elephant in the Room

In regard to homelessness there's a feeling that the city needs to enforce existing bylaws and remove new encampments as soon as they go up. The thought is that if we make it difficult to camp on public property then maybe those addicted among them will seek treatment. However what happens then? Where do they go? This approach didn't work in other cities that tried it and it won't work in Owen Sound. What is required is a combination of focused ongoing financial investment in addiction councilors and, most importantly, a 'Housing-First' policy.  You can watch some short YouTube videos at this link - Click or Tap Here.

The Community Survey identified Homelessness as one of the top issues facing residents. People just don't feel safe downtown anymore and are fearful when approached by a panhandler or homeless person downtown. It is not sufficient for Council to tell us that they’ve uploaded this problem to the County. The city has the sole responsibility of keeping its residents safe by proactively dealing with the homeless problem; not the County. It’s apparent that there are many reasons for homeless encampments on city property including addiction to drugs and alcohol. Traditional addiction counseling in homeless encampments has not been successful. What has worked in many cities is a “Housing First” approach

‘Housing First’ is a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness. It centers on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing and then providing additional supports and services as needed. This is how cities around the world have successfully addressed their homeless problems. Information on this program is available on the Canadian Government website at this line “Housing First” and a fact sheet produced by National Alliance to End Homelessness is available at this link - Click or Tap Here.

As for the affordable housing issue, the county does have a program to deal with this. However we need to increase our commitment to the county's program to fund Owen Sound focused initiatives. What both of these problems have in common is that they both require a significant ongoing financial commitment to successfully resolve these issues. So where will the money come from?  If council does provide better oversight on city expenses perhaps some of these savings could be directed to this problem. However we know that this source of funding will take years to materialize.

A Long-Term Potential Solution

We know that the Art Gallery Collection is substantial - 2600 pieces. The reason given for seeking to build a new $30 million building is that there is not sufficient space in the current building to properly house the collection. We could solve this space issue in another way; that is, sell all or half of the collection and eliminate the need for a new $30 million building and roll back the Art Gallery staff to what it was in 2018. The proceeds from the sale could be as high as $30 million. We actually don't know the exact value of the collection because it's not publically available. However this March one councilor declared that its value: "exceeds tens of millions of dollars"

The proceeds from the sale could be placed in an investment account - a Heritage Fund. The annual interest from that investment could produce a return as much as $2.4 million annually. Council could then earmark this money to address the major issue of the day; which today is affordable housing and homelessness. By allocating a portion of these funds to a “Housing-First” program we would solve two problems; the inadequate space problem at the Art Centre and we would begin to address the homeless problem

What do you think of this potential permanent solution?

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1 comment on 1 page
We need a long term solution to provide housing for Owen Sound’s unhorsed. Apparently our multimillion dollar Art Collection is stored in the basement so why not sell it and do something good. I think a housing first program would work in Owen Sound.  
Bill MacDonald

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