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London’s homeless plan to include ‘shelter hubs’ around city to help those in need


London, Ont.’s community leaders believe they have a response plan to help solve the city’s health and homelessness crisis.

After more than 200 individuals from 70 organizations gathered for a summit, they have come up with a "Whole of Community System Response" plan (WOCSR).

The proposed system was developed in just over three months.

“This system needs to be people-centered and housing centric,” said Scott Courtice, executive director of London Intercommunity Health Centre.

They will accomplish this goal by working together to create 12 to 15 shelter-hub locations around the city, which will accommodate about 20 to 25 people in each location.

The would be multi-agency outreach hubs will offer basic needs, access to primary care, housing and income supports, and one number to call for referral.

“It will serve people 24/7, get them off the street and serve them with multiple agencies all in one place,” said Courtice.

Scott Courtice, executive director of London Intercommunity Health Centre unveils the plan after a three-month summit on Housing and Homelessness in London, Ont. on Feb. 21, 2023. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)He added, “It’s bringing together the best of our community service agencies and becoming bigger than the sum of our parts. Almost like an ‘Avengers assemble’ moment where we are there to really support those who are marginalized, and stop working [in] isolation, and work together to solve this crisis.”

The locations of those hubs are still to be determined, but Courtice envisions them scattered around the city.

The consolidation of services will be a big help to the London Police Service (LPS), whose members see suffering and dying on the streets.

“We hope this is a system where police can actually take a backseat and let the experts and those with more experience in dealing with marginalized folks that we're talking about to take the lead and improve their lives,” said LPS Chief of Police, Steve Williams.

He added, “I appreciate the hub model as it pertains to one-stop shopping. We receive in the neighborhood of 130,000 to 140,000 9-1-1 calls per year, many involving people in crisis. Wouldn’t a system be great where we could immediately do a transfer to a more appropriate service that’s timely, sustained and supportive that does not involve police?”

Williams said it would allow LPS to redirect resources to policing matters to provide better service.

They will also immediately create 100 high support housing units immediately with a goal of 600 built by local developers over the next three years.

“There have been front line workers who have been working in this space for their entire lives and it has been frustrating, difficult and challenging experience to see things not get better,” said Josh Morgan, London’s mayor.

Morgan added, “Later this month, council will have the opportunity to dig deep into the proposed system response, and truly try to understand the critical role we will play in supporting the system and a solution. When that comes I will be pleased to bring a motion to my colleagues to direct staff to allocate funding from the London Community Recovery Network to support the implementation of this plan.”

Some of the community leaders involved in London’s new Whole of Community System Response pose for a photo at RBC Place in London, Ont. on Feb. 21, 2023. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)Dr. Andrea Sereda said the past few years have been difficult for those on the front lines.

“Things have gone from terrible to inconceivable on the streets,” said Sereda when referring to what her and her colleagues have witnessed.

“More and more frequently we’re actually holding people’s hands when they die. Sometimes they’re dying quickly from a medical illness. Sometimes they are dying slowly, day-by-day from the deprivation of living outside on the margins of our community,” she added.

Those deaths from homelessness total more than 200 since the start of 2020.

“We cannot and will not accept the tragedy of 200 more homeless-related deaths in the city in the next three years, we cannot look back and have that same experience,” said Brian Lester, executive director of Regional HIV/AIDS Connection.

The WOCSR will be kick started by a donation of $25 million from an anonymous donor. They will match an additional $5 million in community donations.

“We’ve been waiting for this summit process to close, and without promotion we’ve had 160 Londoners who found out about us, and approach us and make a donation to our fund,” said Marcus Plowright, chair of the Fund for Change.

“It amounts to $650,000, and with that matched by our donor we are at a $1.3 million. I’m very hopeful as we are only just beginning, and we have a lot of work to do to inform Londoners. Every citizen of London must help in this cause, from $1 to $25 together Londoners can solve the insolvable.” Top Stories

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