Sudbury's Homelessness & Opioid Crisis Continues; More Help Is Needed From The Province
Photo Credit: CTV News Northern Ontario
Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger has reached out to the Province for more help, as homelessness & opioid issues have reached crisis levels in the Nickel City.
Here is what was included in the letter:
"As I write this letter in my office at City Hall, I can look out the window into our civic courtyard and see more than 30 homeless citizens, some suffering from debilitating addictions, living in tents or simply sheltering under the building overhangs. Across the street in one direction is Memorial Park, dedicated to our veterans, where dozens more tents have been set up by people suffering from homelessness. Across the street in the opposite direction are more than 200 white crosses in a corner sculpture park; each representing a life lost to drug addiction.
Premier, my community needs your immediate attention and assistance to deal with these converging emergencies. Our budgets and human resources are simply not adequate to respond to this unprecedented situation. While we are doing our best to implement solutions, our municipal resources are simply not designed to provide assistance without provincial support. Our own staff, and those in community support and health agencies, are exhausted. You and I have spoken about this situation previously on several occasions. You have assured me that you understand our needs and the urgency of the situation, but no significant assistance has been forthcoming."
"Northern Ontario is being disproportionately impacted by opioid addiction, with the highest death rates per capita in Ontario and some of the highest in Canada. As the Northeast’s largest city, Greater Sudbury attracts those who are seeking shelter and services, overwhelming housing and outreach capacities and creating increased numbers of unhoused and under-housed individuals. Adding to this suffering, COVID-19 is in outbreak amongst this population, pushing support services beyond the breaking point and increasing the burden on hospital services.
Here are summary details of our current situation. During the COVID pandemic the number of people living unsheltered in Sudbury has increased."
"This has been impacted by the closure of in person public services, loss of affordable housing, and the opioid crisis. In particular, the number of people living in encampments in the downtown core has increased significantly. While encampments are not new to Greater Sudbury, the frequency and quantity is unlike anything this community has faced before.
As of November 23, 2021, there are currently 93 people on the By-Name list of people who are experiencing homelessness in Sudbury and are interested in finding housing. During the Point-In Time Count conducted on October 19, 2021 there were 205 people who were identified as living unsheltered outdoors. Of that number, 165 were identified as living unsheltered in an encampment. The most recent data indicates 90 people are currently living unsheltered in an encampment."
"Our objective is to support people to resolve their homelessness. We do not want to simply displace people experiencing homelessness to other locations. There are currently 65 emergency shelter beds operating within the City for Greater Sudbury split amongst three locations. Housing based solutions continue to be the primary focus based on individualized case plans to meet each person’s needs. Under a housing focused model, emergency shelters and warming centres are intended to be a temporary location to meet basic needs while engaging with people to connect to permanent housing solutions. Several conversations have occurred with community service providers who regularly report recruitment challenges and difficulty retaining qualified staff. Shelters remain at full capacity, and we continue to experience an influx of homeless people, coming here, from all over Ontario."
We need your immediate consideration for funding to support the following initiatives:
A. Supportive Housing
During the 2021 budget process, Mayor and Council for the City of Greater Sudbury unanimously approved a business case for the creation of supportive housing with wrap around services targeted to house and support homeless individuals with mental health and addictions. As part of the Housing First strategy, supportive housing has proven to be a successful evidence-based program throughout Canada as it provides people with choice. City Council is requesting $2.4 million in funding per year to support the clinical component of this operation.
B. Supervised Consumption Site
Over the past few years, opioid deaths have risen to crisis levels in Greater Sudbury. In 2018, the City of Greater Sudbury assisted in funding a comprehensive needs assessment and feasibility study completed by Community Drug Strategy (CDS). In 2020, opioid related deaths averaged 9 per month, while opioid related incidents averaged 57 per month. The results indicated that Greater Sudbury would benefit from a supervised consumption site. In an update report to Council dated June 15, 2021, City Council approved a location for a supervised consumption urgent needs site, as well as operation funding. City Council is seeking additional support of $1.3 million annually to ensure the ongoing operational viability of this site.
C. Emergency Funding Support
"Greater Sudbury Council has authorized a significant increase in funding for homeless and addiction related services in our operational budget. These dollars come from the property tax levy and, over the medium term, could have a significant impact on our ability to deliver other services to our citizens. It should be noted that available funding is contingent on the costs of the continued response to the COVID-19 outbreaks in the homelessness serving sector. Staff continue to manage several different funding sources while leaving adequate contingencies to deal with these costs. At this time, costs continue to escalate in this area; while Council has taken these programs on the municipal levy, these are health supports that should be funded through the appropriate ministries."
"Premier, I know that you have a personal commitment to put in place the best services possible for those most affected by addiction and homelessness. To do this in Greater Sudbury, we need to close some ever-widening gaps and get properly funded and resourced services in place to help our people get off the street and get clean. Our community is not turning its back; we are fully engaged and making the tough decisions to allocate funds and staff to the greatest extent possible. We urgently need your support to make this a truly effective and successful effort. We need a meaningful partnership."