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Oxford County commits to eliminating homelessness

While communities across the province deal with homelessness, Oxford County has formally committed to making sure all of its population has a roof over their heads.

County council has approved a new three-year strategic plan which includes a goal of 100 per cent housed, meaning essentially to eliminate homelessness.

We have to say, ‘That’s our goal.’ Our goal is that everybody in Oxford should have a home to live in,” explained Warden Marcus Ryan, who also stressed that the problem won’t be fixed anytime soon.

“And then we have to demand of our staff that they’re going to provide us, ‘What are all those options that we can find to try and deliver on that?’ And frankly, even if we were to discover at that next council meeting, ‘This is the solution,’ that will take time to implement,” he said.

According to the county, there are 125 people officially listed as being homeless — 81 active, and 44 listed as inactive.

However, that only includes those who have been counted, said Ryan, who added that the unofficial number is much higher.

But you don’t have to tell Embro residents Natalie Moretto and Tyler O’Brien who see it every day in places like Woodstock.

“We’ve been seeing a lot,” said Moretto. “You usually get to know some of the folks that are homeless there. You’d be familiar with their faces and such, and there have been new people that have come.”

“It’s upsetting, it’s sad to see,” added O’Brien. “To see how many people there is on the street that can’t afford housing.”

While most of Oxford’s unhoused can be found in the larger community of Woodstock, it is less visible elsewhere but it certainly exists. So much so that in Tillsonburg, the community’s first overnight shelter opened last winter for the coldest weeks of the year.

According to resident Deb Almost, there was no shortage of demand.

“You see them sleeping in the bank, hanging out on the streets at night, hanging out here near the library,” she explained.

“It makes me kind of feel sick,” added Jasmin Doug. “Like I kind of feel sorry for them. I feel bad. I don’t know what do to, I can’t help them.”

Oxford’s new strategic plan is in effect for the next three years.

“Frankly the situation in the short term is probably going to get worse even if we find what that best solution is,” said Ryan. Top Stories

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