In January 2015, the 10-Year Plan to end homelessness began implementation in the City of Kingston and County of Frontenac. City Council allocated provincial and municipal funding to four priority areas: Prevention/Diversion Programs; Basic Needs Supports (Homeless Prevention Fund); Housing Assistance/Emergency Shelters; and Rapid Re-Housing/Housing First. The purpose of this report is to ensure appropriate daytime services for the homeless are provided, meal programs and drop in services at The Gathering Place are continued, and the Ryandale overflow emergency shelter continues to be funded.
With the new Housing First approach, the emergency shelter system in the City of Kingston changed in July 2015, incorporating shelter specialization by client group and introducing a 15 bed overflow shelter. The total number of shelter beds, inclusive of the overflow shelter, remained unchanged at 86 beds with a goal that as more chronically homeless clients accessing the shelter system are housed, the need for an overflow shelter would be eliminated.
To date, 165 households including a total of 224 people have been housed under the Housing First model. The occupancy rate for the shelter system for the month of September 2016 was 79% and at Ryandale Shelter the occupancy rate was 60% in September. The ideal occupancy rate for the overall shelter system is 90%, which indicates that resources are being allocated appropriately. A goal of the 10-Year Plan is to reduce shelter bed utilization by 50% by 2023. Ryandale Shelter has been working with City staff and community members to develop a plan to re-purpose their shelter facility to offer services which would benefit the Housing & Homelessness Services System (HHSS). At this time, City staff are recommending that Ryandale Shelter be funded until June 30, 2017 as shelter utilization usage does not yet warrant its discontinuation as an overflow shelter. Prior to the expiration of this funding, City staff will present a report to Council analyzing the continued need for the overflow shelter and necessary strategies to mitigate the effects of reduced shelter beds in the system.
With the introduction of the HHSS, the City worked with funding partners and the funded shelter providers to provide daytime programming and services. While most shelters were able to offer their shelter clients daytime programming by linking them to other programs and services offered by the shelter agency, the 29 bed co-ed shelter operated by Home Base Housing, known as In From the Cold shelter, lacked the financial resources to allow it to offer daytime programming.
As an interim measure, to provide daytime services for persons experiencing homelessness and as part of the homeless reserve funding strategy, The Gathering Place was funded to allow it to remain open during daytime hours when Ryandale overflow shelter and In From the Cold Shelter are closed. Statistics indicate that about 80 percent of the clients accessing The Gathering Place are not in fact homeless but are clients living in poverty and substandard housing primarily looking for meals and socialization, getting out of the weather, showers and laundry facilities. For homeless persons, it has been determined that it would be more beneficial to fund the In From the Cold Shelter so that it can remain open during the daytime as it would be in a better position to provide programs to clients accessing the shelter. Daytime services would be focused on moving clients from shelters to permanent housing. Providing these services at In From the Cold Shelter would enable Housing First/Rapid Re-Housing housing-based case managers to better connect and engage with their clients and would also enable shelter workers to more effectively work in partnership with housing-based case managers in supporting clients in meeting their housing plan goals. This partnership would increase the capacity of the HHSS to move chronically homeless clients out of shelters and into permanent supported housing. City staff are recommending that Home Base Housing be provided funding to allow it to remain open during the daytime.
This report also recommends that The Gathering Place continue to receive funding for 2017 to primarily focus on the provision of meal and drop in centre services which operates on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and has been funded since 2006. The Gathering Place serves a need in the community by providing approximately 1,200 meals each month for those who are living in poverty. In 2017, City staff will be working with the United Way to develop a food security plan which will include a review of meal service availability and need in the community. City staff will prepare a report to Council to address meal service availability going forward which could have future implications for The Gathering Place.