Future of Transition House hangs in balance as county pulls funding

Cobourg Mayor predicts closure of 24-hour emergency shelter after county council expedites new housing program

The future of one of two 24-hour emergency shelters for homeless people in Northumberland County is hanging in the balance after County council has pulled its funding.

Meanwhile, Cobourg Mayor Gil Brocanier predicted in an interview Wednesday that Transition House will likely close after the cut in financial support.

Transition House board of directors vice-chair Bridget Jokitalo said Friday a letter from the County arrived last week notifying them of a change in funding. While she was unable to provide details about the amount of money, she said it was enough to create a serious situation for the board and the future of the shelter.

“It is very precarious,” she said, adding she would not comment any further until the board meets shortly to decide what’s next.

Transition House was closed last month after a serious incident took place in which an employee was injured during an alleged altercation on Dec. 5.

Since then, the Cobourg Police Station is the county’s only 24-hour temporary warming centre for homeless people seeking refuge from the extreme cold.

Emergency shelter is available through Northumberland County Community and Social Services, along with some other agencies including Salvation Army Community and Family Services, the Help Centre of Northumberland, the Green Wood Coalition, Cornerstone Family Violence Prevention Centre and Anishnaabe Kwewag Gamig women’s shelter in Alderville.

However, many of these services are only open during the daytime, along with some warming centres located in communities across the county.

Brocanier said he is doubtful Transition House will stay open.

“It probably will not,” he said when asked directly about the future of the shelter.

With the provincial and federal government onside to support Northumberland County Council’s new Housing First initiative, Brocanier said it is time to step back and re-evaluate the provision of emergency shelters and housing.

“We are taking the money that we were formerly giving to Transition House, and we are looking at how that can best be utilized to accommodate people who are very much in need,” he said.
The Housing First strategy focuses on providing a range of housing services with an aim to provide stable accommodation for people who are homeless, allowing them to focus on resolving other challenges in their lives rather than searching for a place to sleep.

“It will probably be a better use of the money,” Brocanier added.

While he emphasized none of the actions by the County should reflect poorly on Transition House or its management and staff, he argued times have changed.

“There are different ways to do things,” he said.

The County announced it is expediting its housing plans in a press release Tuesday.

“Northumberland County will be requesting proposals from service providers for the delivery of innovative shelter services for our community,” Director of Community and Social Services Lisa Horne is quoted as saying in the press release.

The County will be looking at best practices related to homelessness diversion and the Housing First model, the release also states.

The temporary closure of Transition House was a factor in moving forward, the release states.

“With notification from Transition House shelter in December of a temporary closure, the county has expedited plans to modernize the system in order to both return the system to full capacity and enhance this capacity,” the release said.

Transition House opened in 1999 as the only 24-hour emergency shelter for homeless people in Northumberland County.

It is an independent agency run by a board of directors, and receives funding from the County as well as the Ontario government, Home Depot Open Door program, Faithworks and other contributions.

It provides 24 beds for individuals and families, along with some support programs to assist people in stabilizing their lives to get permanent housing, financial assistance, medical attention, and employment.

A recent study of 304 homeless people in Northumberland found 59 families, including 26 children, plus 178 individuals were homeless. In addition, 48 other families were at risk of being homeless. Twenty-seven percent of those interviewed were youths aged 16 to 24.


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