Help the ‘hidden’ homeless in rural Durham Region find a home
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This may not be what you picture when you hear the word ‘homeless’ but in rural Canada this is often what it looks like.
June, her ill son and two grandchildren came to that crossroads not too long ago when they could no longer pay to heat in the old farmhouse they were renting in rural north Durham Region, despite June working into her 80s to cover the bills. With no car, no money, and nowhere to go, they turned to North House for help. Since then, June has been able to move into an affordable apartment – and she can once again enjoy her piano. North House has also helped to secure housing for her son and grandchildren as well. You can hear more about her story and the challenges of 'hidden' homelessness in north Durham Region here.
They are among the lucky ones. In north Durham Region alone, about 170 people are living in precarious, substandard or temporary housing. The report Homelessness and Hidden Homelessness, found people living in rural areas of Ontario are more likely to have experienced homelessness and hidden homelessness at some point in their lives than people living in cities.
Nationally, nearly 1 in 10 Canadians have experienced hidden homelessness at some point in their lives – about 2.3 million people age 15 and over – many of them in rural communities (Rodrigue, 2016).
Yet, in north Durham Region there is no emergency shelter, no transitional housing and a pittance of affordable housing.
There are a number of factors for 'hidden' homelessness in rural areas:
- Gaps in service. Resources such as mental health, addictions, and domestic violence services are often centralized in urban areas far away from rural communities.
- Transportation. Many rural communities lack public transportation and what is there operates on limited schedules. Private transportation is expensive leaving people isolated and challenged to get help.
- Distance. Rural communities are spread out making it difficult to reach everyone to provide in-place services.
- Other challenges. Sufficient heat due to necessity of oil, electric baseboard heaters, propane heat, as well as utilities, snow removal, access to food and health care, all of which are amplified for families and people with disabilities.
- Privacy. People are less likely to admit to housing insecurity in a community where everyone knows everyone.
- Affordable housing. As noted, there are no emergency shelters in north Durham Region and there are only 28 transitional housing units in the entire region – all of them in the south (Region of Durham, 2014). Someone in need of emergency shelter in Beaverton, for example, would have to pay for transportation or find a way to get to Oshawa – almost 60 kilometres away – to find a bed.
- There is also no transitional housing in north Durham, according to North House, and affordable housing is limited. There are 12 properties spread over five communities that provide rent-geared-to-income and people can be on a wait list for years (Region of Durham, n.d.).
Unfortunately, many people considered to be the hidden homeless would rather describe themselves as “inadequately housed” than “homeless,” which often prevents them from seeking help (Kauppi et al., 2017).
The result? Many people without a place to call home, or on the verge of homelessness, depend on an informal network of family and friends to take them in and manage the issues that brought them there, ranging from mental illness, addictions, and domestic violence to illness, divorce, aging, or disabilities.
There has been a patchwork of funding commitments from all levels of government to end chronic homelessness, including the newly announced federal Reaching Home homeless strategy that would see the government maintain its nine-year $98-million Rural and Remote Homelessness funding stream (Government of Canada, 2019).
However, many of the solutions to hidden homelessness are subject to the whims of the election cycle, and this money aside, still favour denser urban areas.
This petition calls on the federal, provincial and municipal governments to enter into a binding multi-year funding agreement that would:
1) support the development of an emergency shelter in north Durham Region
2) see them source and secure provincial and municipal vacant lands to be used to build affordable housing in north Durham Region.
Government of Canada. (2019, April 1). Description of Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/homelessness.html
Kauppi, C., O’Grady, B., Schiff, R., Martin, F. and Ontario Municipal Social Services Association. (2017). Homelessness and Hidden Homelessness in Rural and Northern Ontario. Guelph, ON: Rural Ontario Institute. Retrieved from https://www.homelesshub.ca/resource/homelessness-and-hidden-homelessness-rural-and-northern-ontario
Region of Durham. (2014). At Home in Durham: Durham Region Housing Plan 2014-2024. Retrieved from https://www.durham.ca/en/doing-business/resources/Documents/HousingDevelopment/AtHomeAnnualReportSummary_accessible.pdf
Region of Durham. (n.d.) Housing, shelters and homelessness. Retrieved from https://www.durham.ca/en/living-here/affordable-housing.aspx
Rodrigue, S. (2016, November 15). Insights on Canadian Society: Hidden homelessness in Canada. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2016001/article/14678-eng.pdf
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