Hidden homeless in Haliburton
By Chad Ingram
Oct. 4, 2016
While they may not sit on pieces of cardboard on the sidewalk, there are indeed homeless people in Haliburton County.
The City of Kawartha Lakes, which is the social and housing services provider for both the City and
the County of Haliburton, has joined the 20,000 Homes Campaign, a program that aims to house 20,000 of Canada’s most vulnerable homeless people by July 1, 2018.
The goal locally is to house 24 people through a Housing First program by that date.
The process included a homelessness count that took place during the summer in both the City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County. In the county, people without permanent homes were encouraged to attend events between Aug. 22 and 24 and take a survey.
Twenty-five people in the county took the survey, 86 in the City of Kawartha Lakes, for a total of 111.
Results were presented to Haliburton County council during a Sept. 28 meeting.
“It was really interesting to start looking at what homelessness looks like in rural areas,” said regional housing co-ordinator Kerri Kightley. “It’s a different picture [than in urban areas.]”
Twenty-four per cent of respondents were between the ages of 16 and 24, 60 per cent between 25 and 60 and 16 per cent over the age of 60.
With the youngest group, Kightley said most of them are couch-surfers, alternately sleeping at the homes of friends and family.
“It’s really hard to find them and connect them to services,” Kightley said.
Of the county respondents, 48 per cent said they require social supports such as mental health treatment to get to a state where they can get into subsidized housing. Forty-two per cent said they require permanent, supported housing.
Kightley also pointed to some of the social costs of homelessness, including health-care expenses.
At an estimated $240 per visit to the emergency room, Kightley said that in the past six months, Haliburton respondents to the survey had accrued ER costs totalling almost $12,000.
That figure for hospitalizations – with a day in hospital costed at $1,000 and the average stay 7.6 days – was nearly $100,000 and for ambulances – at cost of $240 per ride – about $1,200.
Kightley said that 82 per cent of county respondents said they are unlikely to seek help in times of crisis, nearly double the rate of City of Kawartha Lakes respondents who said they are reluctant to ask for assistance.
“In Haliburton County, people are less likely to seek help,” Kightley said, adding that at least part of the reason for this seems to be lack of transportation. “There’s not as much accessibility to health care.”
Kightley said a full report from the survey should be published within coming weeks on the City of Kawartha Lakes website.