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Windsor approves funding for homelessness prevention initiative
Windsor city council has approved funding for the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative, a move that the mayor calls “a dangerous step.”
Council on Monday approved a motion to spend $564,000 to make up for a cutback from the provincial government.
Mayor Drew Dilkens voted against the motion, calling it a slippery slope.
"Stepping into the shoes of another level of government and stepping into the shoes of the county and pay for the county, that's never happened any other time that I've seen of,” said Dilkens. "It's a very dangerous thing to do."
As part of Council’s decision, the city will send a letter to Essex County to cover its share of the bridge funding for the homelessness prevention initiative. But the county is under no obligation to provide funding now that the city has agreed to fund the entire shortfall.
Dilkens is also concerned council’s decision sets a precedent.
"When budget times come, those same people are going to be coming forward,” said Dilkens. “These programs need to continue, they are important.”
Ward 1 councillor Fred Francis, who also voted against the motion, is worried about more provincial downloading.
"There's going to be cuts to healthcare and education. Is city council going to step in to take over education and health care?” asked Francis. “That's not our portfolio. That's not our mandate.”
But the executive director of the Windsor Youth Centre believes the city is doing the right thing, with close 5,000 people on a waiting list for affordable housing.
"We are the one's living in this community,” said Tamara Kowalska. “It's our responsibility to do what's necessary to build the kind of community we want to live in."
The city and the county fund the majority of the $11 million for the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative. The program helps pay for emergency shelters, housing and support programs like ‘Keep the Heat.’
"City council sent a very clear message that the most vulnerable citizens in our community are of value to us,” added Kowalska.
Council’s decision comes on the same day of a report from the Windsor-Essex 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan. It shows a record 2,048 households accessed provincially and municipally-funded interim housing in 2018.
Those people stayed in a shelter an average of 11 days.