THUNDER BAY - The number of homeless people in the city of Thunder Bay continues to grow and in an effort to get more vulnerable members of the community off the street and into a place to call their own, the federal and provincial governments are continuing to work together to invest millions into more affordable housing units.
A $14.4 million investment through the Canada-Ontario Investment in Affordable Housing agreement will see the creation of 127 affordable housing units as part of 15 projects across Northwestern Ontario.
“It’s meant to help a variety of individuals, families, seniors, and Indigenous people in a variety of ways,” said Steve Clark, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“We work very closely with our service managers and Indigenous program administrators. They are the people on the ground, they know the need in the community, and we are very glad as a provincial government to be able to support those local projects.”
Of the $14.4 million, $4.3 million will be used to create 52 housing units in the city of Thunder Bay, with 24 located at Northern Linkage Community Housing on Algoma Street South, 20 at the Journey to Life Centre on Cumberland Street, and eight at the Matawa Coady Avenue Project.
An additional 10 units are being created in the Kay Bee Seniors Six-plex in Oliver Paipoonge and four at the Bell Street Complex in Nipigon. The remaining 61 units in nine projects will be in Sioux Lookout, Dryden, Red Lake, Kenora, and Fort Frances.
During the announcement on Tuesday at Northern Linkage Community Housing to celebrate the completion of the 24 one bedroom units, as well as the 10 in Oliver Paipoonge and four in Nipigon, Bill Bradica, chief administrative officer with the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board, said it was important to have both the provincial and federal governments supporting these projects.
“As an organization, we could not do this without that kind of cooperation and funding,” he said. “It’s extremely important and it’s the only way that these types of things will work.”
The DSSAB has a waitlist of more than 1,000 people waiting for affordable housing, with two-thirds of those on the list being single individuals.
“A number of people will be coming off the waitlist that DSSAB maintains for urgent low-income housing,” Bradica said. “Others will be paying affordable rent, no more than 80 per cent of market. But a number of them will be additionally supported through rent supplements through the DSSAB.”
According to a point-in time count conducted by DSSAB, the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre, and the Lakehead Social Planning Council in 2018, 474 people identified as living homeless in the city of Thunder Bay, up from 289 people found in the 2016 count.
Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce, and Labour, who was previously executive director at Shelter House Thunder Bay before being elected to parliament, said providing more affordable housing to vulnerable members of the community was one of the reasons she became involved in politics.
“It’s something we talked about for a long time and it’s something that is really needed,” she said. “Without a safe place to call home, it’s very difficult to for people to move on to future goals in their life, whether that is improving their skills, raising a healthy family, or retiring with safety and security.”
Several projects in communities throughout Northwestern Ontario focus on the senior population in order to allow seniors to stay in their home communities longer, with individual communities basing the decision on the need.
“Other communities like Thunder Bay are focusing on affordable housing for lower income or vulnerable Canadians, Indigenous people, women who have fled domestic violence,” Hajdu said. “That’s good for those communities. That’s what’s great about this approach. It’s not determined and tip down from the federal government, but built up from the municipalities and communities.”
But Clark said he has worked closely with organizations like the DSSAB that have highlighted a number of opportunities in the Northwest that should be looked at closely by the provincial government, including housing for seniors.
“If there is a provincial property that a local community feels would be a good long-term care home, we want to hear from them,” he said.