Based on the demonstrated success as a Built for Zero Canada community and the recent recognition of St. Thomas-Elgin as the second community in Canada to achieve functional zero veteran homelessness, city manager Sandra Datars Bere had the opportunity this past week to showcase local efforts to end homelessness.
She participated in a three-person presentation Thursday at the Ontario Small Urban Municipalities (OSUM) conference in Paris, Ontario.
The session recognized the challenges of homelessness are not exclusive to large urban centres.
Datars-Bere highlighted some of the best practices being employed to address homelessness in St. Thomas and Elgin starting with compiling a quality By- Name List of approximately 130 individuals identified as actively experiencing homelessness in the community.
It is updated frequently and supports local processes for matching people to resources and making data-informed decisions.
Multiple service providers meet bi-weekly to review this list to match individuals to available resources.
It’s been many decades since St. Thomas could hoist the banner, Railway Capital of Canada. Before the end of the decade, however, could the city become the EV Battery Capital of Canada?
The numbers bandied about Friday (April 21) sure point in that direction.
Hosted appropriately enough at the Elgin County Railway Museum, politicians from all levels of government plus officials from Volkswagen and its battery operation, PowerCo, along with city staff were on hand to provide further details on the gigafactory to be located in the new industrial park on the eastern limits of the city.
Technically the EV battery announcement was made last month at city hall, yesterday’s event was an opportunity to fill in the many blanks in order to shed more light on just how massive this facility will be, not to mention the financial gigaincentives dangled by the feds and the province.
In his address to the gathering, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called St. Thomas the place to build the future together.
And he wasted no time addressing the elephant in the room.
St. Thomas-Elgin has reached a significant milestone in the fight against veterans’ homelessness.
In a brief ceremony prior to Tuesday’s city council meeting (April 11), it was announced St. Thomas-Elgin becomes the second community in Canada to achieve functional zero veteran homelessness.
London was the first city in Canada to be recognized.
The goal was achieved in February of this year and Danielle Neilson, the city’s social housing and homelessness prevention supervisor explains why this is a priority.
“It is part of a federal initiative to end homelessness for all veterans across Canada. And they have put money on the table to be able to do that.
“What happens then is Built for Zero works with Canadian communities to establish a system that is set up to immediately prioritize veterans who are identified in the homeless population and assist them with obtaining housing and then housing stability to ensure that they are anchored into their home.”
St. Thomas-Elgin joined Built for Zero Canada – a national movement of over 40 communities working to end chronic and veteran homelessness – in 2021.
We referred to them as the city’s forgotten apartments. A pair of decrepit hovels visible from the mayor’s office in city hall.
The first thing you noticed was the gaping holes where the ceilings had fallen away.
Patches of paint which had not yet floated to the floor cling tentatively to the walls.
In other areas, vast expanses of paint blistered like badly burned skin.
Missing tiles in one of the showers had been replaced with duct tape and garbage bags.
The remnants of a skylight were stuffed with a blanket and when it rained, water dripped to the floor and down the front stairs.
When this corner exposed those units in January of 2016 they were home to four tenants, seemingly off the radar of several departments at city hall.
Links to the trio of items written about those apartments and what might have been in the way of affordable housing back in 2016 can be found at the end of this item.
We reference these residences because how many other out-of-sight, out-of-mind units can be found up and down the Talbot Street core?
He calls it great for St. Thomas.
St. Thomas Fire Chief Dave Gregory likens it to winning the lottery.
Of course, we talked about the announcement earlier this month that Volkswagen is coming to town where it will construct what it refers to as a gigafactory for battery cell manufacturing.
We talked with Gregory earlier this week to get a sense of what that will mean for the fire department in the way of needed resources and planning for when the plant opens in 2027.
“As far as resources and stuff go, I’m unsure at this time because I haven’t seen a footprint or layout of any sort.
“But, it’s what we do,” stressed Gregory. “We have Magna, we have Presstran.
“All the equipment we have, the manpower and the training we do, we’re prepared for anything they will bring to us.”
Gregory doesn’t feel they would need to construct a substation in the new industrial area.