The city, along with the Region of Durham, partner agencies and the faith community have a number of programs in place to help those vulnerable and unsheltered individuals in Oshawa’s downtown.
Those working with the city and region to support these vulnerable individuals include the Primary Care Outreach Program, Mission United, operating out of the Back Door Mission, On Point, Welcoming Streets, the HepC Team, and Spirit of Service.
These programs aim to provide full services to vulnerable community members, many of whom have complex mental health and addiction challenges.
“The City is committed to ensuring that vulnerable individuals receive full services and support from the many service agencies and programs available,” states the city. “Individuals are encouraged by the city, region, and service providers to seek support through the programs available, including accessing shelters through the Region of Durham and connecting with hubs that provide full services such as crisis and mental health supports, medical assistance, meals, washrooms, clothing, etc.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Back Door Mission, with the support of Simcoe Street United Church, opened its available spaces to be used as a collaborative and centralized service operating as Project Mission United.
The hub offers more than 20 supports, including assistance connecting with services such as crisis and mental health supports, housing, social assistance connections, medical assistance, meals, washrooms, clothing, and food pantry items.
Feed the Need in Durham works with member agencies to centralize food donations for those who need it most in the community.
Through its collective approach and numerous sources, Feed the Need in Durham distributes 1.44 million pounds of food each year in the community, which is equivalent to 1.2 million meals.
Since July 2020, Durham Region’s Homelessness Support System has housed more than 100 people.
According to the Region of Durham, more than 50 per cent of those housed were experiencing chronic homelessness, which means they had been homeless for at least six months in the previous year.
Durham Regional Chair John Henry says the region is a caring community with supports to help all residents reach their full potential.
“The Region of Durham remains committed to ending chronic homelessness because no one should get left behind or fall through the cracks, he says. “We want to ensure Durham is a healthy, safe and happy community for all.”
This data is sourced from the Region’s By-Name List, which lists people, by name, who are experiencing homelessness in Durham. This list provides access to real-time data to help better address peoples’ needs and track milestones on the journey to ending homelessness.
As of February 2021, there are 125 people on the By-Name List; 89 of whom are experiencing chronic homelessness.
The By-Name List was created as part of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness’s Built for Zero Canada campaign, which is a nation-wide effort to end chronic homelessness. Since creating the list, the Region has implemented new and innovative initiatives to help end chronic homelessness.
This includes housing-focused programming and streamlining the process to access housing and supports through Durham’s Coordinated Access System.
The Coordinated Access System helps people experiencing homelessness to access services based on their individualized needs. The alternative is helping on a first-come, first-served basis, which means those able to better navigate the support system get help first, not necessarily those who need it most, states the region.
Since implementing the Coordinated Access System in 2020, Durham Region’s Homelessness Support System has provided more than 100 housing opportunities and is committed to adding at least 100 more in 2021.
“While homelessness is a complex issue, feeling a sense of belonging and a place to call home is a basic need,” states Durham Region Commissioner of Social Services Stella Danos-Papaconstantinou.
She notes Durham’s Homelessness Support System is a collective of organizations and support services that work together to help people on their path from homelessness to a home.
“They help by addressing and eliminating barriers to access safe and affordable housing because everyone deserves a place to call home.”
Many local community agencies are actively seeking volunteers and/or donations to provide help to vulnerable individuals in a safe way during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For a list of local resources and information on how to donate or volunteer, visit www.durham.ca/communityresources.
Visit the Back Door Mission webpage to learn more about how to donate to the hub, including a list of needed pantry and clothing items.
Visit the Feed the Need in Durham website to learn how to get involved by donating, volunteering, or becoming a partner.