Northumberland County Signs on for Extra Shelter Funding

In City Hall, Editor Choice

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
The additional $2.47-million in year-end funding from the province in support of the shelter facility at 310 Division St. in Cobourg received support in a special session of Northumberland County council on March 14 to execute documentation confirming the county’s obligations before the March 15 deadline.

This will speed up the completion of a facility that offers drop-in room, locker-and-shower facilities, warming space, shelter beds and transitional housing – and, as Associate Director of Housing and Homelessness Rebecca Carman noted, offer the chance to provide these services upon the facility’s opening rather than phasing them in over several years.

“It’s wonderful to be receiving this money from the province and signing on the dotted line,” Acting Chair Olena Hankivsky said.

The point was made several times that this extra funding was not applied for. The project was brought to the province’s attention and got favourable notice when it came time to allot year-end funding because it aligns with their own priorities. Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Moore said that the county keeps the province informed of their homelessness and housing initiatives, so they were aware of this fact.

But Associate Director of Housing and Homelessness Rebecca Carman pointed out that this kind of grant has its own obligations.

“One of the key things about any year-end funding is that you have to be ready to go very, very quickly,” Carman said.

This priority favours so-called shovel-ready projects that are well along, like 310 Division St.

The extra boost makes a solid difference to the project, Carman said, making it entirely possible that the new facility will open with more services in place from the start instead of having them phased in. And it sets aside money towards things like fencing, security and a smoking area.

“Any consideration about the environmental design – the esthetics of the interior, the furniture?” Council Alternate (Township of Hamilton Deputy Mayor) Larry Williamson enquired.

“It’s important we don’t create something that’s a cinder block-looking design. People have to live in something they can be proud of.”

Manager of Homelessness Services Bill Smith assured him this will be part of the planning.

Warden Brian Ostrander – attending remotely – pointed out that the letter accompanying the good news made reference to supporting the closure of “the homeless encampment in the Town of Cobourg,” but noted that the county has no authority to do this.

“That’s not what these funds will be used for,” Ostrander stressed.

“They will be used to renovate sheltering space that hopefully organically will get people out of that encampment and into a housing situation.”

Former Warden Mandy Martin returned to the important point that the money was given by the province without being applied for.

“It’s at their discretion. It’s Santa Claus coming to town across this province,” Martin said.

“I think this gift to us (as I call it) is recognition of all the work that has gone on, not just within the last year but for the last years, addressing a situation, addressing how we serve the community – the county community.

“I think this is an amazing amount of money granted here, and I think that’s an affirmation of the responsibility and professionalism that has gone into addressing the situation, working together, finding ways to ameliorate and co-operate,” she declared.

“To my mind, this project is so far ahead of so many other communities, they are looking to us – how did we get so lucky? How did that happen?

“To me, this is a telling example of how we can do it together in a smaller community. We are not dragging hundreds and hundreds of civil servants behind us. This is on-the-ground stuff with people who really mean it.”

Running with the Santa Claus metaphor, Councillor John Logel likened the year-end funding to the jolly gent having passed out all the presents and then finding he still has few left.

Moore said that next week’s county council agenda will include a status report and feedback from community consultations that were recently completed. She confirmed that a report on negotiations for an operating agreement among the county, the Town of Cobourg and Transition House are ongoing and will also be part of that report.

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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