Cobourg Council – Cobourg May House Sleeping-Cabin Pilot Project

In City Hall, Editor Choice, Local

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland

A half-dozen members of the Northumberland Sleeping Cabin Coalition convinced Cobourg council this week to look into a six-month pilot project in the parking lot of the old Memorial Arena property.

Information presented to council described the project as a fenced village housing 12 people in heated and insulated 8×10-ft. cabin, each with a locking door and space for a bed and a few belongings.

A wrap-around-service component will make available things like mental-health counselling, the food bank, harm-reduction and employment services and social workers.

Shared kitchen, washrooms and showers will be offered in an existing building or trailer.

Group spokesperson Meghan Sheffield said the collective has 10 members with a range of lived experience who have been working on this project for about five months with the hope of providing a safe and secure option for those now living unsheltered. This same kind of project, Sheffield said, had had “great success” in Kingston, Kitchener and some American cities.
It’s not a solution to the housing-affordability crisis, she acknowledged, but it is a community-driven response worthy of consideration.

Delegation member Tiffany Palfrey spoke for a few minutes about raising her family as a homeless person.

Homelessness is a full-time job,” Palfrey said, sharing memories of having to replace belongings that got stolen, worrying about feeding her son, encountering shelter facilities that would not take children.  (Editor’s Note:  Today’s Northumberland has learned that Palfrey’s child has never been homeless)

What they are asking of the town, Sheffield said, is temporary use of the Furnace Street property and staff resources in identifying bylaws, authorizations and permits that will be required for the project.

In the case of the Kingston project, she noted, a temporary-use designation was put on the land for a two-year period, so no bylaw was required.

Councillor Randy Barber asked Sheffield to define the term she used when she spoke of the “great success” with other projects.

They were able to move people from living outdoors unsheltered into stable long-term housing, and do that via these small sleeping cabins,” she replied.

The success of these programs is that services come to them. Each of these communities becomes a hub where people can have their needs met and access the supports they need and the stability of these small sleeping cabins led them to move on.”

I appreciate the situation that a lot of people have gone through and I’m very sympathetic on that – been there myself,” Councillor Adam Bureau said. However, he had to wonder, with the services and shelter already offered by agencies like Transition House, why a new model would be necessary.

There’s no services – they really didn’t help at all,” Palfrey murmured.

The motion council finally passed calls for staff to draft a licensing agreement with the NSCC through the Green Wood Coalition for the temporary use of the property for the six-month pilot project. The report will include any and all zoning-bylaw, Ontario Building Code and municipal bylaws that must be considered. A pre-consultation meeting among the parties will be scheduled, and the $770 pre-consultation fee will be waived.

But it did not get unanimous support. Councillor Miriam Mutton called the proposal unsustainable. While a report exploring all the options is a good idea, Mutton said, “I just do not see this as a viable suggestion.

Habitat For Humanity – that’s different. They are solid homes. This is a proposal that, for six months, is temporary. It’s not fundamentally sustainable.”

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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