Until a stable roof is over one's head, not much progress can be made on health, employment or other issues that need to be addressed – a Housing First philosophy to which local municipalities subscribe.
A presentation by Northumberland County housing-services manager Rebecca Carman and Fourcast homelessness system resource co-ordinator Jocelyn Blazey gave Cobourg council a look at what homelessness is like in the county and how it is being tackled.
Speaking at this week's committee-of-the-whole meeting, they also announced that this year's Registry Week Enumeration will be April 16 to 20 in Northumberland County. This is a provincially mandated exercise that must be held every two years between March and May.
Much of their current policy is guided by Northumberland's 2016 Registry Week Enumeration, a survey process that identifies homeless individuals (and those at risk of homelessness) by name and circumstance. The result is an idea of that person's level of need and vulnerability that can be taken into account when prioritizing and allocating resources.
“We went to locations throughout the county, at least one location in every municipality, relying on community partners to choose locations like soup kitchens, shelters, libraries, and we had a phone number where, if someone couldn't get to a location, they could call in and do the survey over the phone,” Carman said,
Homelessness actually happens to fewer than 1% of the population, Blazey added, but they also found people in emergency shelters and couch-surfing situations as well as living on the street. But one house fire, job loss or catastrophic illness could make anyone homeless at any time.
In the end, they found 302 Northumberland individuals and families homeless or at risk.
Blazey shared several statistics, such as the fact that 100% of the homeless families were headed by a single parent, and that these individuals and families (collectively) have cost almost $300,000 for emergency services like emergency-room visits and hospitalizations.
In the ensuing two years, 36 individuals and 13 families have been assisted in finding housing. For the 2018 survey, they will focus on harder-to-service populations such as youth, seniors and rural residents.
“It's a very, very important issue, and I appreciate the work that's going into it,” Mayor Gil Brocanier said.
Because the money is being reallocated within the existing budget, upcoming work on Henry Street will not occasion a budget increase, Cobourg director of public works Barry Thrasher told council at this week's committee-of-the-whole meeting.
As a result, council has approved the reallocation of $85,000 from the approved public-works capital pavement resurfacing budget to fund storm-sewer and pavement reconstruction on that street.
The work is part of Lakefront Utilities Services Inc.'s plans to replace the water-distribution infrastructure along the full length of the street this year, Thrasher's report said. The job will involve extensive excavation of the roadway to replace deficient sanitary, storm and pavement infrastructure.
As much of the town's work will involve repaving Henry Street following the work, Thrasher considers the reallocation compatible with the purpose of the fund.
“The opportunity to replace deficient sewer infrastructure on Henry Street as part of the larger LUSI project will lead to overall cost efficiencies,” the report said.
“This is consistent with our philosophy of working with Lakefront Utilities when they do construction work,” Mayor Gil Brocanier said.
Council supports environmentally friendly initiatives
Councillor Debra McCarthy brought forth motions at this week's committee-of-the-whole meeting through which the town will support two environmentally friendly initiatives.
Council accepted both on the recommendation of the environment-active transportation advisory committee.
April 22 to 29 will be proclaimed Pitch-In Canada Week, and council is inviting all citizens to participate in the annual Pitch-In event April 28.
This spring-cleaning exercise in cleaning up the debris that accumulates around the community is run as a competition among all the Northumberland municipalities, McCarthy noted, though Cobourg hasn't won the competition in a while.
“I hope we can encourage the citizens of Cobourg to get out, because I am tired of finishing sixth out of seven municipalities in Northumberland,” Mayor Gil Brocanier said.
The town really gets behind the effort, offering gloves, bags and vests to participants that they can pick up at 9 a.m. in the lobby at Victoria Hall. And McCarthy encourages everyone to make a day of it by including a trip to Grafton to visit the county's Material Recovery Facility. They have a big barbecue, and offer give-aways and tours of the plant.
Council also accepted the recommendation to proclaim July 28 as Curbside Treasure Hunt Day – the one day where everyone is invited to put their unwanted items at curbside, McCarthy said, in hopes that someone else will take and make use of them.
The recommendation also called for the event to be held on an annual basis on the last Saturday in July.
Drop-off zones may be a timely idea
Though Cobourg does not have drop-off zones, Councillor Debra McCarthy wonders if such an idea might be timely.
McCarthy spoke at this week's committee-of-the-whole meeting in reaction to a memo from the accessibility advisory committee requesting the creation of an accessible parking space and drop-off zone in front of 169 Division St.
This is the new apartment building south of King Street, she explained, and many of its tenants are seniors. A drop-off zone would make it easier for them (not to mention tenants with disabilities) to be picked up or dropped off.
“I just got a letter from a citizen encouraging the town to have drop-off zones,” Deputy Mayor John Henderson added.
Council's motion was to refer the request to staff for a report. But Henderson asked director of public works Barry Thrasher to go a little further and, in his report, discuss how such a move might align with the requirements of standards set out in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilites Act. This legislation is being phased in, and is set to be fully implemented by 2025.
Lawn bowling club shed gets heritage permit
Council has endorsed the recommendation of the Cobourg heritage advisory committee for a minor change at the Cobourg Lawn Bowling Club.
The report presented this week at its committee-of-the-whole meeting from heritage planner Dave Johnson describes the work planned – the demolition of a tool shed and its replacement by a new one. The new 12-by-20-ft. shed will have a red asphalt roof with seven-by-nine-ft. garage door and a 36-by-80-inch main door.
The report also contained some historic context of the property at the northwest corner of Victoria Park, where the club was founded in 1907. The clubhouse dates from 1925, with a 1937 addition. To its west are two auxiliary buildings – one thought to date from 1982 and the tool shed from 1990 (now in a poor state of repair and inadequate to the club's needs).
Director of planning and development Glenn McGlashon said the plans to make the exterior from a wood or wood-component material is an excellent example of collaboration among the application's proponent and the town's heritage committee and heritage staff. Vinyl was originally planned for the exterior, McGlashon said, but the proponent discovered wood siding was actually cheaper.
“I know the committee was quite adamant to change that recommendation,” Councillor Aaron Burchat noted.
“I think this was a great outcome for this application."