The Town of Parry Sound is “urgently” calling on the province to work with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario on tackling homelessness.
Jamie McGarvey, the Mayor of Parry Sound carried the resolution during council’s Feb. 21st meeting, which also calls on Ontario’s government to acknowledge that homelessness is a social, economic, and health crisis in the province and to commit to ending it. The resolution also saw a copy of the motion be sent to the province’s Ministers of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Children, Community and Social Services and Health.
McGarvey says the motion raises some serious concerns that he himself has brought up to the province on a number of occasions.
“You’ve made us responsible for housing but when you’re discussing housing with the federal government we don’t have a seat at the table. We are the troops on the ground trying to deal with the housing issues and we should be at the table because I think the federal government needs that direct feedback and input from those that are working as close to the people as we can get,” he says.
Moving forward, McGarvey says Ontario’s 47 service managers need that support to help with homelessness. He says, in his opinion, AMO should get a seat at the table because it represents Ontario’s 444 municipalities, not counting Toronto.
“I think [AMO] is probably the best organization because they do have an MOU [Memorandum of Undrestanding] with the province, to provide that person to be the seat at the table or at least sit with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing when discussing housing issues with the federal government,” he says.
It’s frustrating, he says, because municipalities have the responsibility but don’t have a voice at the table. “We need that voice so that other people can hear it, so they can understand what we’re dealing with… all three levels of government are representing the same taxpayer and [if] we have obligations, we should have representation,” McGarvey says.
In the motion, council states the homelessness crisis is the result of the underinvestment and poor policy choices of successive provincial governments. According to McGarvey, those include programs like the Social Services Relief Fund, which he says was really helpful but is, unfortunately, coming to an end.
Another aspect, he says, is the province concentrating on building new homes to tackle homelessness. New builds are great, McGarvey says, but they take time to happen and a lot of capital to bring to life.
“We’ve got a situation we need to deal with immediately and people can’t wait two, three or four years for a new build. What we really need to see is the federal and provincial governments investing in those short-term solutions which can become long-term housing projects by redeveloping existing space or existing buildings,” he says.