City says changes to housing homeless will diversify system

The City of London is defending the disruption caused by the new limit of 50 beds in homeless shelters.

The city funds 300 shelter beds in the city, currently about two thirds of the shelter beds are provided by two agencies.

But surveys of those who use them indicate that may not serve the needs of many who enter the shelter system.

Kevin Dickins, deputy city manager of Social and Health Development, said, “Input from users of the system that say large, institutional shelter facilities are not always safe, they’re not always welcoming, sometimes the lead to violence.”

Dickins says a housing plan established in 2019 laid out the need to move away from a dependency on emergency shelter beds.

“It sort of defeats the purpose of the emergency shelter stay when you’re there for a number of years.”

The request for proposals (RFP) based on the new approach to shelter services was launched in September, with the process set to close next week.

But the current large providers told CTV News London earlier this week that the process has left them scrambling.

Peter Rozeluk of Mission Services London said, “This is a new process and we’re figuring that out as we go along.”

Dickins believes everyone will be able to adjust to the new standard and that smaller shelters will also be able to help more people.

“There’s a need for us to be a little bit more diverse in what services look like in this community. Right now, if you’re an individual who has a pet, for example, there’s nowhere for you to go in an emergency shelter. If you’re in a relationship and have a partner, it’s next to impossible to find a space in an emergency shelter for you.”

And Dickins say the emphasis will be on providing supports and moving individuals to more sustainable living situations.

The new system is expected to take effect in April 2022.