photos shows a group of tents alongside a roadway
An encampment on Ferguson Avenue North in July 2020 Credit: Joey Coleman / The Public Record

Ontario’s Auditor General is laying the responsibility for Ontario’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis squarely at the feet of the provincial government.

“Ontario does not have an overarching and co-ordinated provincial strategy to prevent and reduce homelessness,” reads Auditor General of Ontario Bonnie Lysyk’s report on homeless.

The Auditor General’s report finds a lack of tracking, data collection, spending oversight, and strategies as serious problems and calls on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and House to act immediately to standardize municipal approaches to homelessness, ensure reliable data collection, implement spending oversight, and to set standards for everything from affordable housing waitlist prioritization to emergency shelter operations.

“The Ministry does not evaluate the effectiveness of programs and services provided with provincial funding to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”

Ontario’s affordable housing crisis has worsened significantly in recent years with the provincial average rental cost of a one-bedroom apartment reaching $1,241 per month in October 2020.

Over 211,000 households are waiting for social housing in Ontario.

“Lack of housing affordability is a roadblock to reducing homelessness.”

The report states “social assistance is the primary source of income for people who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness” but assistance does not provide enough for housing. Ontario Works provides $508 per month in income support, the Ontario Disability Support Program provides $1,169 per month.

The report states municipalities have increased their homeless response budgets by 59% during the past four fiscal years, significantly more than the 32% increase in provincial spending, and 29% increase in federal spending.

Most of this increase is in emergency supports, not long-term solutions.

“The cost of homelessness was examined in a 2014 national study conducted by the Mental Health Commission of Canada across five Canadian cities (Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Moncton). The study found, for the highest needs people, providing housing and required support services to people who are homeless cost on average $19,600 per person, per year. However, this cost was offset by an average reduction of $42,500 in other services not utilized,” reads the report.

Ontario’s municipalities are failing to ensure social housing is provided to those with the greatest need, the report finds. The Province implemented a new “By-Name List” system for waiting lists, “but this new list does not guarantee that the people most in need will receive housing first.”

The report calls on municipalities to collect consolidated information confirming whether people who are homeless are provided needed supports and services.

Auditor General Lysyk states the provincial government needs to set standards and municipalities must inspect homeless shelters. “Some municipalities have not established standards for shelter operations and none are sufficiently performing inspections of shelters to ensure that where standards have been set, they are being met for the health and safety of residents.”

Homelessness increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with encampments appearing in cities across Ontario. Among the contributing factors, the Auditor General finds that many people who were precariously housed (“couch surfing”) were no longer able to find temporary arrangements, and people being released from correctional facilities were provided with housing options.

“As of June 2021, Toronto reported that 40% of individuals referred to shelters from an encampment had no previous shelter use in the city prior to the start of the pandemic, indicating they may be new to homelessness, or to the city,” the report reads.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing states it accepts the finding of the report and will work to implement recommendations.

5 replies on “Ontario Auditor General: Province Failing To Prevent and Respond to Homelessness”

  1. Many homeless have expired in the past 2 years in Ont. Lisa Thompson our M P P has done nothing to help me and other Homeless and stood up for the insurance company when my house was damaged. I have been homeless for 8 years. I do not do drugs or drink alcohol or smoke. Many vets and transport drivers have got hurt or sick and expired because of lack of proper food and medical supplies.

  2. ODSP and OW rates must be raised so the Shelter Allowance for both meets the $1261/month Provincial average for a 1 bedroom apartment at the very least, and then also keep the amount for the Basic Necessities on top of it.
    But FORD refuses to raise the rates and this is the result. The quickest way to solve this issue is to ensure those who are disabled have enough to keep their homes.
    We are in a modern day Eugenics program and the Disabled are on the societal deletion list. Seriously, the gas chamber is looking far more humane way to die than living homeless in a Canadian winter.

    Most of the people who are becoming homeless are seniors and those on ODSP who are evicted nefariously from their homes because they pay low rent, so the landlord can appear to renovate the place and then re-rent at Market Rates. This needs to stop!! The Gov’t isn’t doing enough to prevent these issues. Landlord’s should be made to give Tenants 2 months of Market Rate Rent if they want to evict their tenant for Personal Use or Renoviction. This would allow the Tenant to at least have First and Last Month’s rent available to them immediately to put down on a new place. Additionally, the Landlord should then be made to put a Full Year’s worth of Market Rent into a LTB Monitored savings account as a deterrent against Bad Faith Evictions. If the Tenant doesn’t file against the Landlord in the required period, then the Landlord gets the money back 6 months after that date. If there is a case filed for Bad Faith, that money is there to immediately give to the Tenant on a successful court win.

    Additionally, you can’t prevent homelessness and expect to get more people in social housing when there is NO NEW SOCIAL HOUSING!!! You can’t put a person in a place that doesn’t exist. Why do you think there is a 10+year waiting list.

  3. “The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing states it accepts the finding of the report and will work to implement recommendations.”

    Yes, but when? And how many people will die or fall further into the abyss while they wait for solutions?

    Why not mandate that all new rental housing built must offer a percentage (10-25%) of their units as geared to income?

  4. The Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works benefits have sadly become woefully inadequate and the current financial support inhumane.
    Disabled and Poor Ontarians unhappy with their living quarters and wishing to move out from Subsidized Housing for their Physical and Mental Health well being, because Transfers are non existent due to them “not meeting the criteria for a transfer” according to the Subsidized Housing provider’s rules on criteria for getting a transfer, they can not currently afford to do so because of the pittance currently allowed for by the ODSP Shelter Allowance or OW Shelter Allowance. The same applies for Disabled and Poor Ontarians who get renovicted or for those already homeless, they can’t afford to rent a new place to live.
    The Income Security Advocacy Center has determined that 88% of ODSP clients and 97% of OW clients currently do not live in Subsidized Housing. The current ODSP $497.00 Shelter Allowance for single clients should be tripled or increased 200% to $1491.00 per month for single clients so that they can rent a one bedroom or bachelor apartment. The current OW Shelter Allowance of $390.00 should be doubled or increased 100% for single clients to $780.00 to reflect the current cost of $800.00 to rent a Room. ODSP and OW Benefits for couples and families have to be raised as well to a livable benefit.
    The ODSP and OW Basic Needs Allowances for single clients should be doubled to accurately reflect the true cost of living in today’s society. ODSP clients need their Basic Needs Allowance doubled or increased 100% in to purchase medical needs not covered by the ODSP MSN Form, healthy food, laundry and cleaning supplies, money to do laundry, phone, internet, transportation and to replace worn out clothing or other household needs.
    ODSP and OW should not be downloaded to Municipalities as some Municipalities do not have the resources to provide for ODSP or OW client’s needs adequately.
    The Ontario Government must STOP sharing ODSP and OW client’s personal and medical information to Foreign For Profit Companies as the Ontario Government is currently doing in 3 separate trial programs across Ontario.

  5. Ford is leveraging the fewer welfare frauds against the far greater number of honest disabled as an excuse to neglect the disabled entirely. This expendability of the disabled is not new – in fact, it’s perfectly Darwinian. But there is hope! The suffering of the impoverished will be co-opted to help Ford win the coming provincial election and shore up support for potential federal leadership. So outside of being expendable, the disabled are single use tools for Ford’s personal gain. His lack of compassion aside, Ford has proven himself the greater welfare fraud; that is, by pretending to have any concern for the welfare of the people. Signed any big contracts lately, Doug?

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