Orangeville Council to decide on emergency funding for men’s shelter next Monday

September 30, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

A Council decision to provide nearly $170,000 in emergency funding to Choices Youth Shelter to keep their men’s shelter operational until the spring has been deferred until next Monday (Oct. 4), at which time a business plan will be presented to councillors.

Mayor Sandy Brown brought forward a motion at Orangeville Council’s meeting on Monday (Sept. 27) to allocate $166,546 to Choices, representing the required funding needed to operate a men’s shelter there from Nov. 1 to Apr. 30.

The money would be distributed on a monthly basis and the funding would be reduced or removed as other revenue sources become available from the community or other government agencies, like the County of Dufferin.

Time is of the essence with this project as Choices has to make a decision on their lease agreements by Oct. 15, and cannot move forward with the men’s shelter without six months of guaranteed funding.

“This emergency funding was sort of critical to move forward to find not only accommodation, but also to confirm employment for those working in the shelter,” said Mayor Brown. “It’s been very difficult in all aspects of government, including social services to find employees, and it’s been difficult, particularly if there’s some unease about the length of employment.”

If no emergency funding is provided, the men’s shelter that Choices opened in August through a generous anonymous donation, will have to close down.

Following the reading of the motion for funding by Mayor Brown, councillors expressed concerns surrounding the dollar amount and that no business plan had been presented by Choices.

“I want to start off by saying that I think that this is a really great initiative that you want to take on and I commend you for trying to solve the problem because it’s definitely a problem that we have in our community, and I know people don’t want to see it,” said Coun. Lisa Post.

“I do have some concerns… oftentimes, the non-profits are expected to disclose significant amounts of financial information and do a lot of legwork to get as much as a $1,000 or $5,000 community grant. Now we’ve got an organization who’s asking us for $175,000, and I haven’t even seen a business plan or an outline of what they intend to do.”

Post said homelessness is a difficult issue to solve and requires more than just putting a shelter over people’s heads. She added that she needs to see a cost of programming, cost of security for the facility, and would like to know where the facility will be located, as it has not yet been decided.

“This is a very vulnerable sector of our community, and by doing this incorrectly, we’re putting these people who are already at risk at even further risk, and I have some concerns about the town throwing money into the pot for something that doesn’t have a plan laid out for it,” Post remarked.

“Slapping a roof over somebody’s head is only a very small part of the problem, and we could do that by giving them vouchers to a motel, quite honestly, for substantially less money. And I as much as you want to tackle the issue of homelessness that we have in our community, but I’m really concerned about the way that we’re going about it.”

Chair of Choices Randy Narine responded by saying the motel voucher program is actually what’s already in place through the County of Dufferin and is currently not meeting the need.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t work,” he said.

Coun. Post clarified her initial comment by saying she understands you can’t just throw people in a hotel but understands the social services sector and struggles with financing a homeless shelter that’s been “kind of thrown together without long term plans.”

“I’m worried that we’re in more of a vulnerable situation for these people than we started out in, or as vulnerable, anyways, as they started out,” she said.

Narine responded by noting that the men’s shelter mimics Choices’ program, which has been around for a long time and has a solid track record in the community for helping youth age 18-24.

He said he does have a long-term plan for the shelter but hadn’t put it out into the public sphere because it is dependent on funding.

“In terms of terms of funding, you’re not our only hope,” noted Narine. “We are looking at County for funding, unfortunately, it takes a while to go through the process of County, and we wouldn’t get the funding in time that we need to continue on the shelter.”

Coun. Post thanked Narine for his response and said requested that when Choices and SHIP present a business case next Monday, they include County of Dufferin staff for comment as well.

“Because this normally would fall under their [the County’s] umbrella before it would fall under the municipality of Orangeville, I would just love to see some commentary to show that there’s a guarantee of some matching funding, or that there’s some collaboration that’s being done with the County as well,” she said.

Coun. Joe Andrews, who sits on the local Men’s Homelessness Committee, said he appreciated Coun. Post’s passionate comments and would also like to see additional budgetary information. 

Thomas DiCarlo, who’s the Chief Financial Officer of Services and Housing in the Province (SHIP), which operates three homeless shelters in Peel, was present at Council’s virtual meeting on Monday and responded to Coun. Post’s concerns.

SHIP has been working with Choices since last fall and with respect to Choices budget for the men’s shelter, DiCarlo explained that there’s funds designated for 24/7 specialized staffing, client programming, supplies, and client contingency costs. 

He noted that they would run programs similar to what they offer at their other shelters where they focus on diversion from the shelter, finding vulnerable individuals permanent housing, and providing counselling support. 

Later in the Council meeting, Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh said he’s thankful that people like DiCarlo and Narine exist to take on the good work they do with Choices and SHIP. However, he said in conversations with the County of Dufferin, he learned that if he took someone who was homeless to them, they would put the person in a motel and look after them.

“There are things out there. I don’t know where the discord is between County and what is actually happening. I know County has rules like they want to check on the people to make sure they’re okay, but I think part of the problem is these individuals don’t want this,” said Deputy Mayor Macintosh.

“Your Worship, you asked yourself the gentleman with the shopping carts, you wanted to pay for a hotel, they don’t want this. They want to be on their own, they want to be in tents… I don’t know if they’re going to come to a homeless shelter.” 

Mayor Brown responded by saying Council has heard about the dire need for a men’s shelter from Pastor Matt McLean who runs the Lighthouse, Pastor Kerry Duffield who sent Council a letter, and Terry Carer of Carters Law, who say the County isn’t doing enough.

“The truth is somewhere in the middle here, folks, because they’re claiming that County’s not providing adequate support – County is claiming they are,” said Mayor Brown.

He added that there’s opportunities to fundraise in the local community to help offset the financial burden to the Town for the men’s shelter. He also reiterated that his motion states funding coming from the Town would be reduced or eliminated if other revenue sources became available.

“The snow is just around the corner folks, and this is the concern, we need to get something in place for the next six months to ensure that these vulnerable people are looked after,” Mayor Brown stressed.

Coun. Todd Taylor said he agrees with Deputy Mayor Macintosh’s comments on the issue.

“I too made phone calls, I spoke with the Warden, and I also spoke with people in housing at the County, and I’m aligned to what the Deputy Mayor is saying – they don’t believe that there’s a problem here,” he remarked.

“Then the last piece I’d say is, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a $175,000 ask come to this council without some sort of report… This is significant funding and I don’t have an issue with giving it, I just need to have a business case.”

A business case will be presented to Orangeville Council next Monday (Oct. 4), at which time councillors will vote on the motion to provide the nearly $170,000 in one-time emergency funding to Choices.

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