Funding boost to Homelessness Prevention Program helps but doesn’t fix the issue

While additional funding to address homelessness is helpful, Lambton County officials say more funding is needed to add to the current housing stock in order to address the problem.

The Ontario government recently released its 2023 budget, which includes an additional $202 million per year for the Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) and the Indigenous Supportive Housing Program (ISHP).

For Lambton County, the increase is $2.04 million, bringing total program funding to $5.6 million.

“This is incredibly important new funding for our community and will help ensure everyone has a safe home,” Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey said in a statement. “The Ontario government continues to take the necessary steps to address the growing problem of homelessness in Lambton County and across the province.”

Valerie Colasanti, general manager of social services, said the county is “very happy” to receive more funding as the number of homeless people in the area has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic 400%.

The funding will be used to assist with planning, but the biggest challenge right now is housing stock, or lack thereof, Colasanti said.

“So the money is not enough to build new housing, so we continue to seek funding from the county, provincial and federal governments to increase our housing stock,” she said. “But what it will do is it will use dollars to help us provide support. So once someone is successfully placed in a unit, we will be able to provide the support services they need to ensure their continued placement.”

Lambton County opened an emergency shelter in March in partnership with the Good Shepherd Inn as a temporary shelter for the current shelter system. Since opening its doors, it has been heavily relied upon, Colasanti said.

“We see it being used every night,” she said. “It’s fine that it’s not running at full capacity, we want to always have a few beds in case other people are homeless all day.”

Under Ontario Budget 2023, $190.5 million will be allocated annually to the HPP, while the remaining $11.5 million will go to the ISHP.

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