November 5, 2020
Dispelling Homelessness Myths
It is no secret that Chatham-Kent’s Employment and Social Services (ESS) Division and other agencies who deliver homelessness services are challenged by the increase in residents facing homelessness during the pandemic. Organizations who help the homeless have been further tested by the spread of misinformation in the community, often through social media. Two myths have gained a lot of traction in the community and need to be addressed.
The first myth is, that nothing is being done and the people seen living rough are not connected to community services.
“This is simply not the case Employment and Social Services and numerous partners are reaching out every day to people who are homeless to offer services and provide basic needs. Individuals may choose to stay in the situation for a variety of reasons, including: the right services or housing is not available, they are not ready or they prefer where they are versus the services offered. Further, there is a known shortage of affordable and supportive housing options. This has been a long time coming and will take time to resolve,” warns Chatham-Kent Director of Employment and Social Services Polly Smith.
The second myth circulating is that the people who are sleeping rough are from “out of town” and have been bussed to Chatham-Kent by other big cities, when their shelters were full.
This is also false information. While there are a few individuals living rough in Chatham-Kent from out of town, it is a very small number. Partners estimate between 17-25 people are currently ‘sleeping rough’ in Chatham-Kent and ESS data shows that approximately 8% of those are from outside of Chatham-Kent. Municipalities are not in the habit of downloading their homelessness problems to other municipalities. Social Services throughout Ontario will however pay for transportation to enable individuals to return to their home community when needed. This helps people who find themselves stranded to return to family and services where they more likely to be successful. Chatham-Kent Employment and Social Services offers this help as well to people who present as homeless, but have little connection to the community.
Anyone in Chatham-Kent who is experiencing homelessness or in danger of homelessness should call Employment and Social Services at 519-351-8573. The public may also call this number if they see someone who appears homeless in a ‘new location’, who may not have yet been contacted. For ‘after hours’ homelessness emergencies call 519-354-6628.
For more information:
Polly Smith, Director of Employment and Social Services
Municipality of Chatham-Kent
Community and Human Services
435 Grand Ave W., Chatham, ON
Office 519-351-1228 ext 2170
Toll free: 1-866-542-5994
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