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County receives homelessness prevention funding - Warden calls out province to provide more support for mental health and addiction.

By Lee Griffi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Oxford County’s funding allotment from Ontario’s Homelessness Prevention Program (OHPP) increased by $1.22 million last year, bringing total funds received from the province to $2.3 million. Of that, approximately $2.6 million was transferred to community partners who provide supports and services to people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Warden Marcus Ryan said they are very appreciative of the province for the additional funding, but much more needs to be done as the number of homeless people continues to increase.

“Anyone who lives or drives in Oxford County will know, especially now that the nice weather has come, people are trying to escape situations they don’t want to be in and don’t have a choice in February but have one now. There are more encampments.”

Ryan added 86 per cent of the OHPP money flows to partners like Operation Sharing, the Inn in Woodstock, community health services and those providing mental health and addiction services. He said that is the most effective way to help those in need.

“County council has received many reports and we have had many robust debates including (last week’s) council meeting. If you get more money but don’t know if you are spending it in the right way, it doesn’t necessarily help.”

A large part of the debate at the meeting was about the OHPP funding but Ryan said only 25 per cent of those living in encampments are looking for or willing to consider a housing option if offered to them.

“To you or I that might seem bizarre. How can you be living in a tent in a valley and not want a home if it is offered to you. In a lot of cases, there are inadequately addressed mental health or substance abuse issues and people are saying I’m not ready for a home,” said Ryan.

He added municipal governments are not set up to provide those supports but the provincial ministry of health is. Ryan said the county needs to see more from Doug Ford’s government.

“The funding we receive is good and welcomed, but flowing it out to our community partners, it’s only going to go so far. If we send someone to the Inn in Woodstock to talk to a person in the emergency shelter and it’s recognized they need more mental health supports but we don’t have anywhere to send them, all we have done is identify an issue but have done nothing to resolve it.”

Ryan added each level of government needs to do what it is supposed to do and do it well but the county spends more than what the provincial and federal governments spend combined on affordable, transitional and supportive housing in Oxford.

“We are more than doing our part for the housing portfolio which is our responsibility. We need the provincial government to do the same in healthcare. We will be talking to them to say we need you to do more to help us. If we provide a transitional house for somebody but the mental health and substance abuse supports aren’t there, we can only move them on so far if they don’t have those supports. The province needs to, more effectively for Oxford residents, address mental health and substance abuse misuse issues.”


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