ONTARIO — The topic of homelessness was a focal point of discussion at the Ontario City Council’s work session on Thursday night. Barb Higinbotham, executive director of Community in Action, along with Heather Echeveste, housing programs manager, gave a presentation to the Council regarding this ongoing crisis.
Higinbotham defined that having permanent supportive housing is the ideal scenario for the homeless population. She explained that with this type of approach that individuals and families in need have greater access to services like healthcare, addiction support, mental health services and other necessary provisions.
According to Higinbotham, there is only one functioning shelter in the immediate area, Project DOVE, and this facility is for those who have suffered domestic violence situations.
Higinbotham told the Council that as of January of last year, the current count of homeless individuals numbered 179. She also stressed that the time of year this data was collected was not the most ideal time to be gathering this information. Data collection such as this assists organizations like Community in Action and others to secure funding opportunities.
The options explored included setting up a homeless shelter, of which there are different types, Higginbotham told the Council. She said the “no-barrier” type of shelter means there are no sobriety checks or other status evaluations to gain entry. A shelter that is designated as “low-barrier” means there are some requirements that must be met before an individual is allowed access.
Capping off the presentation by Community in Action was a call to address the problem. Echoing the need to address this crisis, Higginbotham reminded the Council, “Doing nothing exacerbates the issue.”