Finding jobs a critical element of the homeless strategy


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St. Thomas has been allocated close to $917,000 in funding under the province’s Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) for the period April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015.
How the city spends that money will be addressed at Monday’s council meeting.
According to the report to council, “CHPI is intended to provide better coordinated and integrated service delivery to prevent, reduce, and address homelessness with a focus on two key outcomes.”
That would be helping the homeless obtain and retain housing while ensuring those who are at risk of homelessness remain housed.
Those are great priorites but we’re missing the mark in one key area, points out homeless advocate Jason McComb, who met with Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Joe Preston and MPP Jeff Yurek on Tuesday to stress the need to get the homeless back contributing to society.

McComb argues there is a lack of housing options, especially when the seasonal shelter, Inn out of the Cold, closes on April 1.
The outspoken McComb stressed housing is only one part of the equation.
“There needs to be structured programs,” he told our elected reps. “Put the onus on these people. Help them with housing and job searches.”

Jason McComb departs St. Thomas city hall shortly after 8:30 on Nov. 12, 2013.

Jason McComb departs St. Thomas city hall shortly after 8:30 on Nov. 12, 2013.


Finding employment, that’s the overlooked element that will help achieve stability in an individual’s life.
“Without stability in their life, they’re not going to stop being homeless,” stressed Yurek. “How can you apply for grants and things if you don’t have an address. And there has to be someone there to support them so they can break the cycle.”
McComb is a vocal supporter of the London CAReS — Community Addiction Response Strategy — program. London CAReS is a city council approved strategy aimed at improving the health and housing outcomes of individuals experiencing homelessness and who live with the challenges of poverty, addiction and mental illness.
A municipally endorsed strategy that directs resources not only at the homeless, but finding jobs for those individuals.
Will this be part of the debate on Monday?

JUST DUMP IT ALL HERE
As dismal as the voter turnout for municipal elections, this week we learned the city’s waste diversion rate barely squinted above the 40% mark in 2012.
The residential diversion rate refers to the percentage of blue box and other residential garbage kept out of landfill.
In southwestern Ontario, Guelph checks in with a rate of 67.7%, tops in the province. And they have an organics recycling program like we do here in St. Thomas, so our 40.7% figure puts us well back in the runner-up category.
We obviously have a lot of catching up to do.
But where are we failing, or perhaps does the problem lie with our waste management contract with BFI Canada?
We raise that concern because of comments passed along by a reader who claims recyclables are being sent to the landfill.
“On Jan. 15th, waste, organics and recyclables were thrown into the same truck,” he writes. “The city confirmed that specific truck is unable to collect all those at the same time, so yes, they would have all been sent to landfill.
“Why didn’t the waste contractor send out a notice, or ask the city to post info on their site and Facebook if they were not able to collect recyclables properly that week? If we had known we could have just saved them until next time.”
As is so often the case, we seem to be the victims of a lack of communication.
Our reader continues, “This is maddening and not in line with our community’s efforts to increase our waste diversion rate. When I contacted the city, they asked that St. Thomas residents please report pickup issues dealing with waste, recyclables and organics to
them. They ask us to make note of truck number and date, etc. The city won’t know about this unless we report it.
“It would be good to know why the waste contractor — BFI Canada Ltd — did what they did and if they will be reprimanded or face any fines. Will there be anything in place to help deal with such issues in the future?”
The city has not renewed its contract with BFI and shortly we will see Green For Life trucks on city streets as the provider of waste management services.
Has the city included provisions in the new contract to deter slip-shod practices that result in everything ending up in landfill?
Will that result in a sweeter-smelling diversion rate?

A REMINDER
A public meeting will be held from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Memorial arena so that residents can be updated on the consolidated courthouse parking strategy.
The meeting will include a presentation and question/answer period.
As an aside, the plan was approved earlier this month without a single word of discussion on the part of council.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Can you read anything into the fact no member of council has yet to step forward to file their nomination papers for the October municipal vote? If everyone is waiting to see what the other person is going to do, then whose interests are at play here — their own personal gain or truly representing ratepayers?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Then we’re just watering the plant of death.”
Homeless advocate Jason McComb responding to comments from Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Joe Preston at a meeting this week. Preston had stressed we can’t continue maintain the status quo when dealing with homelessness. To do so is not the route to a solution.

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

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