By Adam Harnum
Star Staff Writer
CORNER BROOK — Homelessness is an issue which often goes under the radar in our province, but strides are being taken to determine the incidence and scope of where it stands.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation (NLHC) has retained OrgCode Consulting Inc. to help gain a better understanding of housing and homelessness issues throughout the province.
Following a public discussion Monday held at the Humber Community YMCA — in which 12 residents gathered to share individual struggles and opinions concerning local affordable housing and issues of homelessness — several problems and possible solutions were identified.
OrgCode conducted interviews in each region of the province during June and July with the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and Homelessness Network, Community Advisory Boards, key stakeholders involved in the planning and delivery of services to the homeless or those at-risk of becoming homeless, as well as people with lived experience.
“This was more so an opportunity to speak with individuals who have a lived experience,” said Steve Gaulton a housing support worker with the Community Mental Health Initiative.
Gaulton said the issue in the Corner Brook area is not availability, but the affordability of living which residents face.
“It’s the higher rental amount,” he said, citing one-bedroom apartment rental ranging from $600-$800 monthly.
Other discussions were based around lack of services — such as better access to medical care and treatment, instead of having to visit an outpatient department and having to sit for three to four hours before being seen by a doctor.
“There was some discussion around shelter for men, or emergency-based services, such as exploring options of expanding meal programming offered through networks providing soup kitchens to add a second day of service,” said Gaulton, further adding that “the “intent is to get more people in, connect them, refer them and look at what is available for them.”
According to Tracy Flaherty-Willmott, senior associate with OrgCode Consulting Inc., one of the key solutions to programming for homelessness, as well as housing and stability, is to be realistic.
“If you want to invest your money wisely, then you invest in helping people get housed and increase their health and their wellness,” Flaherty-Willmott said.
Also in attendance was MHA Vaughn Granter, as well as city councillors Priscilla Boutcher and Linda Chaisson, who helped in facilitating discussion as well as providing feedback on the issues discussed.