In reaction to Tuesday’s council meeting, councillors Mark King and Tanya Vrebosch were both in agreement that more needs to be done at the provincial level to address homelessness in the area.
Vic Fedeli, Nipissing MPP says that the province has recently doled out over $5 million in funding to support either addiction, mental health, low-income housing and social services.
The investments include:
- $1.2 Million for the Gateway House for the chronically homeless on Chippewa St.
- $2.5 million for City of North Bay to give people through Ontario Aboriginal Services to build 17 apartments on Cassells St.
- $589,000 in emergency relief funding through District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board (DNSSAB) for whatever is needed
- $600,000 for The Gathering Place, North Bay Food Bank, Crisis Centre
- $1.2 million into organizational funding for DNSSAB
- $475,000 into expanding access to critical mental health and addiction supports going to North Bay Regional Health Centre.
“Certainly there’s a lot more work to do. I think mental health and its groups downtown have done a tremendous amount of work but there’s certainly more to do,” Fedeli commented on the council presentation. “It’s not so much about money as much as just the overwhelming issue that’s taken hold in North Bay.”
Despite all the money that has been provided to the city, Homeless Advocate Shane Moyer says that the services in place for the homeless are not keeping them off the street.
“A lot of our people don’t have the work ethic a lot of us were taught or born with. They need to be taught these basic life skills. A lot of our mental health system seems to be waiting for people to be kicked to the curb,” he said, adding that the city should have a centralized healing centre with all the amenities for the homeless under one roof.
Councillor Mark King says that the low-barrier shelter on Chippewa St. has a similar goal in mind, with it serving as a warming shelter and eventually as transitional housing. However, Moyer says that even with more beds at the shelter, the demand is too high.
“The last three nights, they have been filling up fast. The shelter has been full and there’s still more people coming in,” he said.
Moyer also offered up advice to downtown business owners on how to deal with homeless people.
“A lot of the downtown businesses say they’re in fear of the homeless people when actually it’s the homeless people who are in fear of the business people. They’re the ones that are getting kicked, they’re the ones that are getting spat at and they’re the ones who are getting discriminated against by the landlords,” Moyer said.
Moyer added that a little generosity goes a long way.
“You can actually say, ‘this is my storefront, can you please get up and move’ or you can ask them if they’re okay and if they need anything,” he explained. “You’ll find a lot of them will appreciate that more and they’ll be more apt to looking out for your business rather than trying to break in.”