Durham Region, along with cities and towns across the country, is experiencing homelessness, mental health and addictions crises. In 2022, there were more than 14,000 emergency room visits to Lakeridge Health related to mental health and substance abuse, and a 67 per cent increase in people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Durham compared to 2021.
Each month, the Region shares information about the number of people experiencing homelessness in our community, including through a Built For Zero Report Card
As the Regional representative on the Whitby Chamber of Commerce’s Advocacy Committee, I know businesses want to know how to respond when facing a person in crisis. To respond to this need, Regional staff along with input from community partners are developing resources to help residents and business owners navigate various situations. This information including who to call will be made available and kept updated on durham.ca.
The Region is also establishing a centralized phone line and e-mail to support residents navigating homelessness support services to ensure a coordinated response for concerns.
Current and expanding supports in Durham Region
Durham Region, along with its community partners, is working to expand supports across the Region and ensure that the most vulnerable populations are reached.
The Region is opening innovative transitional housing projects to support individuals on their journey to permanent housing, such as the Oshawa Micro-homes pilot project and the Beaverton Supportive Housing Project. The Beaverton Supportive Housing Project consists of 47 modular housing units and is set to open this year. Both sites provide accommodation and access to wraparound services like life skills training.
Durham has expanded its on-the-ground supports through programs like the Primary Care Outreach Program mobile units, staffed by paramedic and social worker teams, and the Mental Health Outreach Program, which consists of a social worker and a psychotherapist providing mental health outreach and counselling.
The Region is developing an additional direct delivery street outreach program, including 10 frontline outreach workers, that is expected to launch later this summer and operate 24/7.
Community partners play a crucial role in administering homelessness services and providing support. Regional funds allocated to 39 community agencies reflect the importance of the services they provide, such as street outreach teams and community hubs, which provide many services in one location and help people connect with supports.
Regional Council approved an Advocacy Strategy and Policy Paper to Address Homelessness and Related Challenges on June 28. The Policy Paper was developed by staff with input from local municipalities and community agencies. It will be an advocacy tool used to highlight what investments are working, the challenges the Region is facing, and partnership opportunities with the federal and provincial governments.
The Policy Paper promotes advocacy pillars in ending homelessness:
- Federal declaration of homelessness as a national emergency
- More flexible funding to create more deeply affordable and supportive housing
- Increased wages for homelessness support sector workers
- Reducing poverty by increasing Ontario Works benefits
- Increasing portable housing benefits
The Policy Paper can be used by community partners and the business community in their conversations about the challenges in Durham Region, and changes that can help reduce homelessness. However, it’s crucial to name that this Policy Paper is just one step in a much larger journey. Addressing the complex issues of homelessness, mental health and addictions requires ongoing collaboration between all levels of government. It is only through partnership that the Region can ensure every resident of Durham Region has a place to call home.
– Bronwyn Hannelas, Policy Advisor, Government Relations, The Regional Municipality of Durham