29 August 2019

London's new manager of homeless prevention, Craig Cooper, is the latest to admit there's a growing problem of homelessness in the city and it's more visible to the public.

"I think the numbers are increasing," he told CBC London's Rebecca Zanbergen. 

But, Cooper said, efforts are also underway to "think outside the box" to help those in need find shelter one way or another.

Head leases and subsidies

One potential solution is for the city or other community agencies to hold head leases. That means, the city or an agency leads the way in providing shelter.

"So basically, it's where an agency or the city signs the lease for the apartment and holds it," said Cooper. "It prevents individuals from not being able to access apartments for issues like not having I.D. or not having a guarantor or things like that." 

Subsidies would likely also be needed to keep that person housed, he said. 

Craig Cooper is London's new manager of homeless prevention. (Rebecca Zanbergen/CBC London)

The idea is still in the initial stages, said Cooper. Discussions are underway on a regular basis to figure out how best to implement a program involving head leases and subsidies. The legal implications to assess risk management are also being considered. 

Day spaces

Another idea in the works is establishing day spaces. These would be offered in small numbers, potentially in shelters that already take individuals in at night, but would only be a place where someone could get some sleep during the day, or grab a meal and a shower. 

"So you don't see people sleeping in a vestibule during the day," said Cooper. "We can then start having some conversations about what does housing look like for them and what do supports look like?"

Cooper admits, it's a slow process; workers with the city or different agencies have to develop a relationship with the individual and establish trust.

Right now, Cooper hopes to see 10 beds open up in the next four to six weeks.

Funding solutions

Cooper said the city has budgeted for housing supplements through its community homeless prevention initiative. Funding from the last budget was also earmarked for housing support.

But, he cautions, it's not all about money.

"You can throw money at the problem but without a good plan or collaboration you're not going to get the results you need," he said. "We're working toward improving that here in the city by working with private developers, our social housing providers, London Middlesex Community Housing and all those sorts of agencies to try and find different solutions."

Source: CBC