City councillors will debate the much-talked-about hub implementation plan to address London’s growing homelessness crisis in a special committee meeting next week.
A 46-page report details the steps taken so far, including community engagement, and what immediate steps are needed next, including a request from council to endorse the plan, including a capital budget of $10 million to renovate existing spaces for the first five hub locations.
Officials behind the hubs plan say the goal is to offer a space for those most acutely in need of a safe space to get them off the streets, stabilized, and eventually into housing.
“If we are able to provide folks with space to be inside, have health-care and have access to the resources they need, something can change,” said Sean Warren, a care facilitator with the London Intercommunity Health Centre and a co-chair of the hubs implementation table.
While many of the provisions and services planned have been discussed before, the report offers a fuller look into what will be available for those in the hubs, which includes:
- Basic necessities like food, water, clothing, a bed and hygienic supplies
- Access to supports for housing and income
- Assistance with accessing Ontario Works and other employment programs
- Medical access, including stabilization beds, acute and primary care
- Respite and transitional beds
- Transportation to appointments
- Justice system services such as resources for attending hearings and overdose prevention planning
- Translation and interpretation services, when applicable
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One of the critical components still to be determined is the final location of the first five hubs. The report has outlined where they should not be, including near elementary schools, splash pads, child care centres, adjacent to parks or within a residential neighbourhood.
The hubs will also not be placed in the business districts along Richmond Row, Dundas Place and Old East Village.
“At this point in time, to give ourselves the best chance at success, this is what we are looking at,” said Kevin Dickins, deputy city manager of social and health development with the city.
“It does not mean that having a hub will bring harm to the areas a hub will operate in. It’s more a recognition that those are areas that been impacted by the effects of a health and homelessness crisis.”
To ensure the hubs will be open before the year ends, they will be placed in an established emergency care establishment zone and an existing building with between 8,000 and 10,000 square feet of space, a side-street entry, private greenspace, kitchen and laundry facilities.
Both Warren and Dickins stressed the hubs, part of the Whole of Community Response, truly reflect what the whole community expressed during multiple community engagement sessions.
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“It shows what we heard businesses say, what we heard residents say, what those who would access the service say,” said Dickins.
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Per the staff report, each hub is expected to cost $2.7 million to operate annually on a 24-hour basis. While the upfront and operational costs may seem significant, Dickins says a high cost is already being felt through health care, emergency responders and municipal services.
“We can call it a cost, it absolutely is, but it is an investment into a much better system for this community,” Dickins said.
Dickins also said the $2.7 million figure is a preliminary estimate, and there is hope it could be slimmed down as the plan is further refined.
Should the strategic priorities and policy committee and council approve the plan as laid out next week, Dickins says the next steps will include an efficient process for procuring the locations of the first five hubs.
The process will take the bulk of August, with council hearing prospective locations in September. When asked if the before-end-of-year timeline is still realistic, Dickins expressed confidence in the experts behind the plan.
“We have enough experts around the table that have been working towards this deadline with us and everyone is pretty clear on the expectations,” said Dickins.
The strategic priorities and policy committee will meet on Monday at 4 p.m.
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