Homelessness in Stratford is on the rise, but this isn’t different from other years, says city officials
The City of Stratford received recognition of decreasing homelessness by 10 per cent below baseline back in April for reducing homelessness in the county to 131 people experiencing homelessness from December 2022 until February 2023.
Since that time, there has been an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness due to a number of factors, including housing, finances, mental health concerns and several other socioeconomic barriers.
Although these numbers are increasing, it is not uncommon to see numbers increase during the summer months, says Kim McElroy, Director of Social Services for the City of Stratford, “we do see an increase in those experiencing homelessness through the warmer months and decreased through the winter months.”
There are currently 168 people experiencing homelessness in Perth County, numbers that are 20 per cent more than last winter, but McElroy says she is working with community partners to ensure those who are homeless will be safe through the colder months, “We do have a reach team that goes and supports people who are who are homeless or have housing stability issues,” she says, “We work both so we have an internal team. And we have an external team of community agencies, like CMHA as well and various other community partners who go and check on the well being of individuals that are living in encampments.”
McElroy says it is important for Stratford citizens to reach out if they believe someone is experiencing homelessness or could be in danger. “We encourage people to call in so we can send outreach for a wellness check,” She emphasized, “It’s important for us to know where individuals are so that we can go and check on their well-being and work with them to get appropriate housing.”
Municipalities regularly meet to discuss best practices concerning homelessness. McElroy said this process is vital to learning and understanding what works in other areas and what we can implement these best practices in Stratford to help those who are homeless, “We speak as directors onto best practices or promises practices in the municipalities so that we can understand what’s happening in both rural and urban settings,” she said, “We are constantly in contact, reviewing best practices across the province.”
McElroy recently attended a meeting where homelessness was a top priority of discussion, and she said it raises important questions, “what’s working in other municipalities? What are lessons learned, and how can we move the needle on this important topic?”
From here, there will be more discussion throughout the month of October as it is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. Therefore The City of Stratford says there will be future updates on homelessness and how citizens can get involved to help those who may be without housing.