Homeless Enumeration Completed

On Tuesday, October 19, 2021, Municipal staff in partnership with volunteers from Hope Haven, CMHA Lambton-Kent, The Chatham-Kent Women’s Center, Access Open Minds, CK Community Health Centre, Bluewater Methadone Clinic (Chatham and Wallaceburg locations), Salvation Army, Outreach for Hunger, Praise Fellowship Church, and St. Andrew’s United Church participated in a point-in-time count of the homeless in the community.

In total 171 individuals were identified as being homeless on the night of October 19th.

This is a 144% increase from the last enumeration in 2018. “I am very pleased with the overall success of this event. When I compare the results to those of 2018, it is evident how much our community need has changed. The information gathered last week will help to guide us in our next steps and hopefully demonstrate that we need more help, and more resources” Tara Lauzon, Supervisor with Employment & Social Services.

Throughout the pandemic, the Municipality’s Employment & Social Services Division (ESS) along with community partners have worked to make homelessness as brief and rare as possible. This is done by ensuring that emergency housing services are available and ‘housing-focused while connecting people with other services they need to be well and sustain their housing. Since the start of the pandemic ESS and our partners have helped over 400 households secure and return to housing. Unfortunately, the cost of rent in the community continues to increase. Specifically, average market rent has increased by at least 30% since 2019. As average market rent outpaces incomes, many are unable to afford traditional units.

Waitlists for all housing-related programming are growing including waitlists for affordable housing. Right now the waitlist for a single bedroom unit in social housing averages five years. Available emergency housing beds continue to be full and ESS is regularly working with local motels to approve temporary overflow stays. “The onset of the pandemic threw Chatham-Kent and municipalities across Ontario further into a homelessness crisis when already pressured systems were overwhelmed.  In the last 19 months, ESS saw the progress of hundreds of homeless people being re-homed, but in the last few months, we have seen housing placements decline and ‘new’ people fall into homelessness. Our ‘by-name list’ increased and now the enumeration confirms it, our homelessness rate is nearly two and half times what it was only three years ago,” Polly Smith, Director of Employment and Social Services.

Housing is the only way to end homelessness. As rents increase and vacancies decrease throughout the pandemic, it is becoming harder and it is taking longer for people to return to housing. Over the coming months, Employment & Social Services and our partners will be hosting community forums to discuss this important topic. As well, a presentation to Council will take place before the end of the year. We will be reviewing and sharing the data from the enumeration and future plans to address the growing need. Solving this complex problem will require a community response as no one agency, community group, or neighbourhood can solve this on their own. No one chooses to become homeless and they certainly do not choose to remain homeless. “Those who are homeless in Chatham-Kent grew up here, they are someone’s mother, father, son or daughter. They were once someone’s neighbour. They have come across challenges and trauma that were not their own doing. They are resilient and they are survivors. Some are able to resolve their homelessness on their own while others need supports to do so. ESS will continue to deliver and create new evidence-informed programs that demonstrate outcomes in ending and reducing homelessness. Failing to act or ignoring this crisis will not make this go away, it will only make the situation worse.” Josh Myers, Program Manager, Employment & Social Services.

Quick Facts

  • 149 people agreed to complete a survey on their experience of homelessness
  • 60% spent the night in Emergency Housing/Motels
  • 18 people spent the night outdoors
  • 30 people spent the night at someone else’s place
  • 79 people reported being homeless for more than six months in the last year
  • 34 people self-identified as First Nation or Métis
  • 50 people reported having health challenges at this time
  • 70% of respondents reported that the cost of housing is the largest barrier that they face
  • 2021 average market rent is $1050 per month for a one-bedroom unit. This does not include utilities.

If you know someone who is experiencing homelessness please direct them to call the Homeless Response Line at 519-354-6628 or Employment & Social Services at 519-351-8573.

For more information contact:

Josh Myers
Program Manager
Employment & Social Services
519-351-1228 x 2178

Tara Lauzon
Employment & Social Services
519-351-1228 x 2009