The City prepares to help the homeless as winters arrive in full swing.

Last week, city council discussed the new approach to address homelessness to temporarily house people in the upcoming winter months, following the shorter- and medium-term pandemic and winter planning initiatives such as temporary sleeping cabins and extensive outreach and advocacy efforts. 

The discussed approach is part of the overall strategy initiated in 2020 for housing and homelessness programming in the City of Kingston and the County of Frontenac. 

Chief Administrative Officer Lanie Hurdle presented the report on Homelessness Services System – Winter response update updating with an overview of initiatives and activities to address the capacity issues related to the pandemic measures and simultaneous health protocols. 

One of the major discussion points was the option of sleeping cabins as a temporary facility to help the homeless during the winter months. 

According to the City of Kingston, "As per Council direction, City staff are in the process of working with community service providers to create a plan for the winter months." 

The report explains the existing actions by the City, including the purchase of 805 Ridley Dr - 34 units with anticipated occupancy in 2022 and 113 Lower Union St - 19 units with expected occupancy in late 2021/early 2022 suffice to the need for more affordable homes. 

Along with creating affordable housing, the City has initiated advocacy campaigns like the City Podcast, Path Campaign - Collaborative project between United Way and the City, and committee involvement in the Community Drug Strategy Table.   

Other recommendations in the report include updating the numbers and conditions and launching a newsletter outlining activities and initiatives in the City's Housing and Homelessness Services System. 

According to the report, "City and partners to increase collaborative efforts with other family-serving agencies to explore and support alternatives to shelter, including transitional housing." 

The report also recognized that alternative short-term and emergency shelters are not a long-term sustainable solution to address homelessness in the Kingston-Frontenac region. For more long-term efforts, "Focusing on enhancing the harm reducing and lower barrier/trauma-responsive approaches – ideally within one housing-focused operation - would be ideal for the current needs of people experiencing homelessness in the region."

The recommendations presented during the meeting are still under discussion. According to the City, "No details have been finalized yet, and more information will be forthcoming." 

Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative