The City Council passed a framework allowing to build of sleeping cabins in Kingston and passed a motion including $150k funding from a donation made to the city from the Vuorinen Estate to support creating a sleeping cabin community. However, where to establish a sleeping cabin community is still under question.
Our Livable Solutions, a steering committee of people, share the experience of homelessness and people who advocate for unsheltered and homeless people. Chrystal Wilson, the Director and advocate at OLS, explains the committee's mission to raise awareness and engage in solutions towards homelessness.
OLS requested 80 sleeping cabins distributed in 3 - 4 locations in their August delegation, which would require a budget of $2 million. The City Council has passed the motion with funding, but there is still a need to find a willing landlord and solidify relationships with existing service providers. The team hoped to have the land issue sorted out last week, on Oct. 19, meeting with the council.
"We need a willing landlord to help us figure out the land; almost anything will do as long as it's people safe. The people we're supporting are adaptable and creative and are desperate to have a place to call home before winter sets in," Wilson said.
While Kingston has a hopeful outlook on the sleeping cabins option to alleviate homelessness, Sault Ste. Marie, Luke Councilor Dufour doubts that sleeping cabins are a solution but a half measure regarding the issue.
Councilor Dufour also pointed out the safety, security, and sanitary concerns regarding the cabins. He also mentioned that the structure of the cabins does not comply with the Ontario Building Code.
Wilson responded to the concerns by mentioning how the group collaborated with fire officials to address fire safety. She also said that due to the size of the cabins, it does not require to meet the Ontario Building code. However, but they are working in collaboration with Kingston's building staff to ensure compliance as much as possible.
"Accessibility is also a concern for us; we expect all of our sleeping cabins to be as accessible as possible. We are working towards improving conditions for people without homes and want to keep people safe. Through smart building and location design, we will work to mitigate risks," Wilson added.
According to Wilson, it's a matter of situations the people are impacted while homeless or what support is already available to them in an area, and maybe sleeping cabins is not a solution for everyone. However, some communities are already testing the idea, and Kitchener's A Better Tent City coordinators have been helping guide OLS for over a year. Now OLS is helping advocates in Peterborough.
"If someone from Sault Ste Marie wants to explore the sleeping cabin model, we would be happy to assist and share our learning," Wilson said.
A solution like sleeping cabins in a supportive environment would help people be more independent to provide a better transition into permanent housing later on.
Regarding the sustainability of a sleeping cabin initiative, Wilson explained that it depends on how willing the community is to care for those experiencing homelessness.
"The physical structure of the place people sleep matters less than the way we interact and support people when they're struggling," Wilson said.
"For this initiative to be successful, we need everyone in the community to think about what they or their organization can do to help support people."
The unit cost is approximately $6,300-$15,000 each with 12 feet by nine feet of area in size. The structure also includes heating, lighting, smoke detection, internet access, and other everyday essentials.
OLS also has a GoFundMe page to support the cause and help maximum people have shelter, especially during winter ahead. For more details and donations, visit: https://gofund.me/7de878e4
- Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative