A look into London’s ambitious plan to tackle homelessness

A photo of London's City Hall front entrance CREDIT: BEN HARRIETHA
London's new plan for tackling the city's homelessness crisis has a lot of potential.

London community leaders have come together to propose an ambitious solution to the city’s ongoing homelessness crisis.

Over the course of three summits held in November and December 2022 and January of this year, more than 200 leaders from over 70 local organizations met to discuss how best to tackle the ongoing homelessness crisis. The conclusion after the summits was that a coordinated effort from all sectors of the city was needed in order to find an effective solution.

The solution in question is the “health and homelessness whole of community system response,” which is definitely a mouthful. But what is it?

Listen live on 1069TheX.com

“It’s a two-step process, getting people indoors rapidly and then building out a continuum of housing to meet people’s needs,” Scott Courtice, the executive director of London InterCommunity Health Centre (LIHC), explained.

The main part of the system is to have more than a dozen “hubs,” shelters that would provide services like primary and mental health care to housing support, throughout the city, providing 24/7 support. Along with the hubs, 100 high support housing units are being immediately built, with 600 more being built over the next three years. It’s unclear at the moment where these hubs will be built, or what the supportive housing would entail.

In terms of the LIHC’s role in the system, Courtice explained that they’d be part of providing basic family doctor services to people in the supportive housing units.

“We’d also bring what we call quick acute care services. So wound care, help supporting any sort of health issues that that people would have coming off the street, and referrals. We’ll be really handling the medical side of things for people that need us.”

One of the other collaborators in the system is Mission Services of London. Mission Services offers multiple community services, including mental health programs, two shelters, a second-hand store, and an addiction centre. Nisa Rigets, the communications and PR coordinator at Mission Services, expressed the excitement the group had working on the plan.

“We are excited to see how this plan takes place to help individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness,” Rigets said in an email.

“It is truly heart-warming to see the London community coming together to address homelessness in London. It can be difficult to see homelessness numbers rise, especially for us who help men, women and children seek emergency shelter and housing stability.”

Rigets added that the Health and Homeless system response is a big step in addressing London’s homelessness crisis and that Mission Services will continue to work in any way they can to make it successful.

Thanks to an anonymous donor, the city has $25 million to help achieve this goal, with an additional $5 million promised for matching donations, meaning a potential $35 million in available funds. But, as Courtice put it, this is a one-time thing.

“The $25 million gives us a leg up on lots of other communities that lets us get started faster and it lets us dream a little bit bigger. When that $25 million is gone, it’s gone. So, we need to be really thoughtful about how we get the best value and make the best investments with it.”

Courtice added that for such a big plan, not only does there need to be monetary involvement from the other levels of government, but an investment of services as well, especially from the province regarding health care.

“The reality is that this is bigger than any one organization or any even one level of government, we're going to need our provincial and federal partners to step up as well.”