Number of people facing homelessness in Sudbury increasing amid lack of affordable housing

A lack of housing is a problem in communities across Ontario, and Greater Sudbury is no exception.

The city has seen a number of homeless encampments over the last few years, and they’ve continued to increase.

“People are scattered in lots of different locations,” said Gail Spencer, manager of housing, stability, and homelessness for the City of Greater Sudbury.

“The numbers are still quite high. We are seeing increasing numbers over this summer. We’re seeing a lot of people being newly evicted and really struggling to maintain housing.”

Spencer said there are 55 known homeless encampments around the city that are sheltering about 94 people. Another 14 people are believed to be in encampments, but their location is unknown.

Spencer said that number is higher than it was in 2021, when about 41 tents with roughly 88 people congregated in Sudbury’s Memorial Park.

Gail Spencer, manager of housing, stability and homelessness for the City of Greater Sudbury, says, ‘We’re seeing a lot of people being newly evicted and really struggling to maintain housing.’ (Warren Schlote/CBC)

Spencer added the City of Greater Sudbury created its encampment strategy in October 2021, to help them develop a collaborative approach to people living in encampments.

This includes working with bylaw officers, Indigenous services and community groups to locate people and reach out to them, offering social services and support to try to get them into permanent housing options.

“We do help them get to the by-name list, and this is a very important process the city has in place called the Coordinated Access System,” Spencer explained.

“The city maintains a list of people that are homeless in the community by name, in collaboration with about 14 community partners, where we try to identify and complete a common assessment, and we get people’s consent to be added to the list.”

The list matches people to available housing with supports that would meet their needs.

“The real problem is the lack of housing, lack of affordable housing,” Spencer said.

‘Housing situation is extremely difficult at this time.’

Raymond Landry, co-ordinator of Sudbury’s Homelessness Network, agrees there is a shortage of affordable housing options.

Landry said most of the people his organization serves have limited funds and live on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program, which he said often does not provide enough money each month for people to afford rising rent costs.

Landry said the Homelessness Network currently supports 62 people with housing needs, including those in housing and looking for housing.

He said there are also 188 people on the city’s by-name list who are registered for housing support, as well as hundreds more waiting for public housing.

“The housing situation is extremely difficult at this time.”

A man with a grey beard and glasses smiles.
Raymond Landry, co-ordinator of the Homelessness Network in Greater Sudbury, says most of the people his organization serves live on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program, which he says often does not provide enough money each month for people to afford rising rent costs. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Landry said they have been able to house some people, but the lack of affordable inventory available in the area makes the process more difficult.

“Pre-pandemic, it would take us some 45 days to help persons find housing, and now we are looking at upwards of six months or more to help a person find a place.”

The rising cost of housing, even among available units, is also contributing to longer wait times for people to be housed.

“Those opportunities are reducing because the cost of housing these days that’s gone sky-high compared to what it was just a year ago and two years ago,” Landry explained. 

“So the opportunities are dwindling and the time to help a person find housing is expanding and becoming longer, so it’s a very, very difficult situation and much more difficult for those suffering through homelessness.”

New housing projects in the works

The City of Greater Sudbury said it is working to address housing issues.

The city’s new 40 unit transitional housing facility being built on Lorraine Street is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023 and open for housing in spring 2024.

“It will be a program that will have the support of an Act Three team through Health Sciences North and be able to support some of the people that are unhoused right now that have the highest level of needs,” said Spencer.

Greater Sudbury Mayor Paul Lefevbre also recently announced the city is developing a housing supply strategy that will address Sudbury’s housing needs. 

“We’re hoping that some new developments could come out of that, that will increase the housing supply in our community,” said Spencer.

Having those housing needs addressed is encouraging news for Landry and his organization.

“There simply needs to be a lot more and quicker developments,” said Landry.

“So anything the city can do in its powers in terms of policy and bylaw aspects to encourage developers and builders to develop more properties quicker, we’d like to see that and we support those.”

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