Council takes a seat at homelessness committee table

Merna Emara
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Mayor June Caul announced during the bi-weekly council meetings held on Monday that she and Councillor Andrew Hallikas will sit on the homelessness committee aimed at decreasing the issue of homelessness in Fort Frances.

“Regarding the many issues around homelessness, there will be a meeting of the municipal emergency measures team and there will be a discussion on the homeless and also there will be a homelessness committee meeting,” Caul said. “This is a community issue, and therefore Councillor Hallikas and I have volunteered to be members of the homelessness committee.”

This decision comes after the presentation during the last council meeting preceding Canada Day. In that council meeting, Jamie Petrin, co-chair of the Fort Frances Homelessness Committee and Peggy Loyie, program manager at the Rainy River District Victim Services Program, gave a presentation arguing the need for an urgent action to decrease homelessness in Fort Frances.

The Fort Frances Homelessness Committee is made up of representatives from 16 organizations in Fort Frances, all working with people who are experiencing homelessness in the town.

Petrin said they are lobbying for and working towards transitional or supportive housing with emergency beds. This is a temporary accommodation that is meant to bridge the gap from homelessness to permanent housing by offering structure, life skills, mental health support and addiction support, she added.

Caul said implementing the time needed to assist the homeless while ensuring tax payers feel comfortable and safe in their own neighbourhoods requires careful decision making.

“I have received numerous calls from concerned residents, and once again, appreciate your calls and emails. When you call to have a friendly conversation about an issue of concern, instead of jeers or nasty letters to the editor or on Facebook or anonymous messages, I truly know that you want to be part of the solution and not just complain for the sake of complaining,” Caul said.

“Homelessness is a complex issue that affects our personal and family lives. It requires municipal, provincial and federal governments to find solutions for. Our community is not immune to those who are homeless, and therefore, we are all in need of education, empathy and understanding of this public and medical concern.”

The committee identified four priorities to tackle: the need for emergency solutions, the need for a homelessness prevention program, the need for transitional housing and solutions for discharge planning from provincial institutions such as a jail or a hospital.

Last council meeting, Councillor Andrew Hallikas, said homelessness is everyone’s problems and town representatives need to step up, do their share and help in finding solutions to this pervasive situation. Homelessness is a community problem and it will take a community to solve it, Hallikas said.

“We, as a community, need education like this to inform us of the scope of the problem,” Hallikas said. “I encourage all community members to educate themselves on this topic and where possible, to become part of this solution by volunteering or donating. The homelessness committee has shown some very strong leadership. I really applaud them for this.”

Caul also said she commends for always being transparent, conscientious and passionate in discussions and decisions which affect the majority of our residents, their well-being and how they spend their tax dollars.

“I appreciate that residents reach out to me so that I clearly understand your concerns,” Caul said. “I take your concerns to heart and will always do my best to listen to you and welcome a friendly and constructive conversation in order to understand and solve issues. I know that each member of council, when approached, will do the same. Council and I will continue to work diligently to ask the questions and find the answers to your concerns.”