Homelessness is a reality in St. Thomas and Elgin


It is estimated there are between 100 and 300 youth who are homeless at any given time, with a significant portion of these youth staying with friends for the short term.
This depressing picture is lifted from a draft copy of the 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan for St. Thomas-Elgin developed by a steering committee of city staff and members of social agencies in conjunction with Tim Welch Consulting of Cambridge, Ont.
The report prepared by Elizabeth Sebestyen, the city’s housing services administrator, will be presented to council Monday with a recommendation it adopt the plan which articulates “the community’s long-term vision for the provision of housing and homelessness services over the next ten years, including a system for review and amendments every five years.”
The city is mandated under the province’s Housing Services Act 2011 to have such a plan in place by the end of this year.

The document offers sobering vital statistics representative of life in St. Thomas-Elgin.
For example, over time “one of the most striking changes that will occur in St. Thomas-Elgin is the growing share of the population who are 65 years and older.”
That will see an increase from 14.5% of the population in 2011 to 19.6% in 2026.
Furthermore, “Seniors with basic pensions, persons earning minimum wage and social assistance recipients cannot afford the average rents and ownership prices in St. Thomas-Elgin.”
And, it should come as no surprise when the report confirms “Service and support gaps exist for persons with undiagnosed mental health issues, persons with addictions and homeless youth in need of basic life skills and supports.”
This area has a higher percentage of teenage pregnancies and unwed mothers than the provincial average and with that comes their associated needs for supports and affordable housing.
The report concludes with this observation: “A Housing First philosophy will require greater service coordination and collaboration across all providers as well as operational funding from senior levels of government.”
Do you honestly believe sufficient funding will trickle down to the municipal level to deal with the homeless and homelessness in St. Thomas-Elgin?

No shortage of feedback/outrage on the process undertaken to fill the vacant seat on council. Here’s a small sampling.
“No Mr. Barwick. Democracy did not prevail. Perhaps there was nothing illegal, debatable as to whether anything was improper, but definitely the whole process was very unbecoming. Very unbecoming indeed.  As for Mr. Warden’s diatribe, the old adage “thou dost protest too much” comes to mind.” That from Enola G.
opinion8ted checks in with, “As for the other Amigos, today there is no evidence of wrongdoing and I can assure you on election day there will most definitely be no evidence of any check mark beside your name on the ballot. Now that’s democracy!!!”
“That (the city’s closed meeting investigator) John Maddox was unable to conclude that the evidence available was sufficient to constitute legal proof, may only mean that they got away with it, not that it didn’t happen,” writes tjstevet.

Former city alderman Marie Turvey checked in with us on Friday to recount an incident that transpired in her last term of council in 2005-06.
Here’s her account.
“Mayor (Jeff) Kohler received a telephone call from Alderman (Heather)Jackson-Chapman re: a secret meeting being held at the Seniors Centre and three members of council were not invited,” writes Turvey.
“(Cliff) Barwick, (Dave)Warden, (Tom) Johnston and Terry Shackelton, wanted to overthrow a motion that was being presented at the St. Thomas Energy Board meeting. Mayor Kohler, Bill Aarts and I went to the Seniors Centre building. When Barwick came in the building from the south entrance and saw Mayor Kohler in the hallway, he turned around and very quickly vacated the building!”
Turvey continues, “At the very beginning of the next council meeting, Barwick stood quickly and sarcastically performed or ‘role-played a story (very fictional) of the event.’
“Alderman (Lori) Baldwin-Sands had reason to believe democracy, or whose interpretation of democracy, did not prevail in filling the vacant position on city council.
“Secret meetings were/are a part of their democracy! Alderman Sands, they are putting themselves under the bus.”
We vividly remember that event and Turvey’s email illustrates there is a precedent for just about any course of action undertaken today by either faction on council.

“There are dozens of people actually homeless in St. Thomas and Elgin county and many times that number are precariously housed with the potential to become homeless.”
Excerpt from the draft copy of the city’s 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan to be presented Monday to city council.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

2 thoughts on “Homelessness is a reality in St. Thomas and Elgin

  1. Forgive me for perhaps sounding like I am saying… “I told you so!”, I do periodically reminisce about the nearly one year (July 12th is one year) of effort I have been putting forth in order to make this known, provide for the homeless, assist them in anyway I can, and fight for services that are not (but should be), available. Upon “reminiscing” I hear echoes of those telling me that there are no homeless people in St. Thomas. I am so happy to hear the voices that matter when it comes to this, say that there is a problem, and am beyond grateful for Elizabeth and all of those included in these (as well as the other tremendous efforts being made) areas
    +Jason H. McComb


    At the June 3rd council meeting Barwick, with no apparent conflict or bias, proclaimed “democracy had prevailed” regarding his appointment. Perhaps he meant demagoguery had prevailed.

    On topic of Cliff Barwick – suffice it to say that if I have a criticism of Barwick, I put it to print with my own name on it and sometimes it gets published in the St. Thomas Times-Journal.
    Now if Barwick has a criticism of me, can he make the same claim or does he write a letter to the editor and have his landlord Ray Galloway put his name on it prior to submitting it to the Times-Journal.

    An idiom should not be confused with an idiot although it is said that sometimes an idiot can be confused by an idiom.

    At the June 3rd council meeting, Dave Warden, Cliff Barwick and Heather Jackson all took turns browbeating Lori Baldwin-Sands for initiating a complaint about the manner by which Barwick came back to council. Jackson claimed this happened because Baldwin-Sands “couldn’t be bothered to ask us a question”. Who does she include in “us”?
    The mayor should look deeply into the mirror – had Jackson “bothered to ask” members of council Jeff Koehler, Mark Cosens and Lori Baldwin-Sands for their view of bringing Barwick back to council, she could have avoided the issue completely.

    You can’t defend the indefensible – anything you say is self-serving and hypocritical. ~ Diane Abbott


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