Earlier this week, there were 150 tents pitched along Lakeshore Drive in Barrie.
It wasn’t a kid’s camping event, unfortunately. It was an awareness initiative of the housing crisis we face in Barrie.
Everyone knows how expensive it is to own and to rent in the city. Barrie ranks 6th in Canada in April 2022, according to the Canadian Rent Report, published on Zumper, an apartment rental site; read more at https://www.zumper.com/blog/rental-price-data-canada/
And as the only urban growth centre north of the GTA, Barrie is a destination for work, education and social services.
So no government officials should have been surprised with the reality that faces many individuals: they have nowhere to go but the streets or the parks when the pandemic hotel-model for shelters ends. Currently, while congregate living pandemic restrictions are in place, the Busby Centre can accommodate 25 people and the Elizabeth Fry 17. The virus spreads through congregate living settings like wildfire, unfortunately, as people are so close together. It is still incredibly sad to recall what happened at Roberta Place Long-term Care: 71 people died from Covid-19. To keep people safely housed, those who would be homeless were accommodated in a hotel.
So what do we do?
We each need to advocate for not just more affordable housing for all of us, but we need housing now for these individuals who struggle to stay housed.
That takes looking at the cause or reason(s) why these individuals are facing this challenge. It requires courageous conversations with people to identify and address their needs.
Stable housing is essential to well-being. (read more at https://www.cpha.ca/what-are-social-determinants-health)
Is the cause of not being housed a lack of social skills? Financial literacy? An inability to find a job or keep one? A struggle with literacy, that would interfere with an individual’s ability to access government supports? These are just a few possibilities. They remind us that those now in the hotel-model shelter rooms are people, individuals who have the same needs for security and acceptance that we all do.
If the hotel-shelter model has been working, why not build on it? Give each person their own space – and their dignity. Help them to manage it with wrap-around supports that build on organization, social skills and self-care and management. Help them build the skills so they can find a better place to call their own and to create a better life for themselves.
It takes a community to raise a child. But if you consider what that means, it really means that it takes a community to help those struggling to learn to be independent and self-sufficient.
Let’s work together to build a better community. And perhaps, that starts with a supportive living place where people can begin to heal from their trauma or build the skills they need to stay housed and stay well.