District Services Board Notes

Social housing changes

Donna Moroso, director of integrated social services of the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board (DSB), gave a report to the board at the June 22 meeting in Espanola, updating members on changes to the Housing Services Program.

She noted that the DSB is in year two of its 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan and will undergo three policy changes to the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy regulations “to help residents who struggle with affordability in their housing to remain where they are residing, in their neighbourhoods, schools and close to support and family.” The three policies to be changed are: the centralized waiting list and tenant selection; eligibility rules; and direct shelter subsidy.

The waiting list priorities have been re-evaluated as follows: retain victims of family violence as the top priority, followed by homelessness (due to fire or natural disaster, notice of early termination due to their landlord taking over their unit for their own family or family member’s use, building condemnation or financial hardship incurred due to a drastic change in income), then seniors. All other applicants are ranked on the waiting list based on their income and assets.

“Considerations will be given to the waiting list at the time the vacancy occurs to ensure that the ratio is conducive to the community needs and to determine the best mix for the building based on the existing waiting list in order to create a more vibrant mixed-income community,” a report to the board states.

New to the waitlist system is the re-ranking of an applicant at each refusal of an apartment unit. An applicant’s refusal will result in an adjustment of ranking to the application that will result in applicants not receiving consecutive offers (that is to say, they would not be offered the next available unit). The number of refusals will not be limited to three, however each refusal will result in a re-ranking of the applicant on the waiting list.

The Direct Shelter Subsidy will also be expanded to other people in need than just those on Ontario Works, including those on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and low income households. The subsidy will be offered to families who are currently on the waiting list and living in areas of the DSB where no housing is available (Tehkummah is an example) and will be calculated by determining the difference between the rent geared to income calculation or affordable housing calculation and the actual market rent of the unit. The hope is that the subsidy will provide greater access to a variety of housing options and ultimately assist more people and house people faster, potentially reducing the DSB’s waitlist.

The DSB is also allowing “a healthy mix of rent-geared-to-income, affordable and market rent units in each building to ensure financial viability throughout the portfolio” while ensuring that community needs are supported.

Scholarships and bursaries are now also excluded as income. Fern Dominelli, DSB CAO, noted that a 16-year-old is considered an adult in the eyes of government and, previously, scholarships or bursaries would be considered as household income.

The way people are screened to become ranked on the centralized waiting list is also changing.

DSB member Stewart Meikleham said he was concerned with those who are homeless having only a five-day turnaround to accept a unit. Being homeless would mean that it would also be harder to reach that person. “Five days is not enough,” he said.

Mr. Dominelli said that, for the most part, homelessness in this area means ‘couch surfing,’ but that there are a small minority of people who are living on the streets.

“You’re right, we do have to manage that carefully,” the CAO added.

Paramedic service review

Chief of EMS Mike MacIsaac informed the board that the DSB had just finished a three-year audit with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. While the DSB will not see a final report until likely the fall, the initial results are promising.

The review was undertaken at eight of the DSB paramedic stations with Mr. MacIsaac stating that he has never had such a good meeting with reviewers.

All of the 60 paramedics audited (picked at random) had all of their accreditation up-to-date and on file and 100 percent of everyone audited who required an incident report (responses to cardiac arrests, motor vehicle accidents, crime scenes, etc.) had one. “That’s unheard of,” he said.

“The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care representative said our vehicle records are the best they’ve seen in the province,” the Chief of EMS said proudly. –