Region launches webpage to address concerns about proposed supportive housing project in Beaverton

Durham Region is looking to ease the concerns of residents about a proposed 50-unit supportive housing complex in Beaverton.

The project was one of two approved by regional council in late July and will be located on land owned by the Region at 133 Main Street – on the grounds of Lakeview Manor, beside Gillespie Gardens – subject to the approval of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

“Residents will have access to wraparound services to promote life stabilization. To expedite the development process, the Region is pursuing a modular construction technique that has seen significant success in western Canada and is growing in popularity in Ontario,” reads a press release from the Region.

The news came as a surprise to many on township council, who were unaware that such a project was even being considered by the Region.

Citing a lack of information and public consultation, members of township council passed a resolution formally opposing the project on Aug. 20.

Those concerns were echoed in a community petition that launched soon after and has garnered well over 1,000 signatures thus far.

Two Beaverton residents – Randy Straeten and Elizabeth Johnston – will be bringing their concerns directly to the Region’s health and social services committee with deputations Thursday (Sept. 10).

The Region recently launched a webpage to share more information on the project and the wrap-around supports that may be offered.

“Life circumstances – such as family breakdown, abuse, job loss, addictions or mental health challenges – can bring someone to be in crisis, without a place to call home. This happens to people in cities and in smaller communities. When this happens, people need support and they need shelter,” it reads.

“Wrap-around supports to an individual living within a community means enhancing access to support services, establishing trust and rapport, and providing increased opportunities to meeting their needs because services are available when they need them.”

The post notes that, generally, wrap-around services include such services as on-site meals in a dining hall; mental health and addictions support; medical and dental care (virtual and/or on site); financial assistance such as Ontario Works, ODSP and/or other financial benefits; rental and tenant support; life skills teaching/counselling and employment services.

“These on-site services allow for people to get the assistance they need, close to home. This helps to improve their overall quality of life and increases opportunities for success by clearing a pathway for them to become contributing members of the communities in which they live,” it reads.

It also attempts to answer the primary question on the minds of most concerned residents – why Beaverton?

“There is a lack of supportive housing in Durham. This means individuals, in need of shelter and supports, are forced to move to where the services are located. This development will provide opportunities for those living on site, as well as anyone in the north Durham community to access needed services locally,” the post reads.

“This exciting supportive housing development in Beaverton is not just about a modern building or residence. This calm, rural setting can offer a needed change of pace to residents looking for not only a home, but also a place to feel secure, supported and part of a community.”

It also includes answers to a list of other questions from the public, including:

Where will people come from who will live in this supportive housing?
While we recognize there is a lack of supportive housing across the entire Region, north Durham residents lack options within their own community. This project provides the opportunity for north Durham residents to access supportive housing in the area that they already call home and for others to experience the benefits that Brock Township offers.
Tenants will be selected based on a number of criteria including housing and support needs. Criteria outlines that needs must align to the supports provided. Tenancy is voluntary and support agreements will be in place with an understanding of tenant obligations and rules.

What is the timing of the project?
It is anticipated that the units will be ready for occupancy in 2021. Although the projects have been expedited to provide much needed housing, this has not come at the expense of due diligence. With respect to the supportive housing development, the Region has been compiling a list of potential affordable housing sites since 2017, as a result of the recommendations of the Affordable and Seniors’ Housing Task Force. The Region is also benefiting from the work of other jurisdictions who have or are currently developing supportive housing projects, by applying lessons learned.

How many people will live in the building?
Units are designed for single, bachelor-style living only (including seniors). The development will include approximately 50 units.

Living in the north is a lot different than the south.  How will you keep tenants from feeling isolated both physically and emotionally?
The project will focus on working with residents in creating an intentional community to combat isolation and foster a healthy, safe home for everyone. The establishment of a Residents’ Committee will give residents a strong role in shaping their community.
This is a program informed by Housing First and Harm Reduction principles, and caters to each individual in an inclusive and holistic way.
Housing First is a recovery-oriented approach to homelessness that involves moving people who experience homelessness into independent and permanent housing as quickly as possible, then providing them with additional services and supports as needed.
Harm Reduction is an evidence-based, client-centred approach that seeks to reduce the health and social harms associated with addiction and substance use, without necessarily requiring people who use substances from abstaining or stopping.

I’ve heard, through the media, of issues with temporary homeless shelters. What precautions are being taken to ensure those same issues don’t happen here?
While this building is not a temporary homeless shelter, resident issues like mental health, addiction or violence could be a reality. The Region of Durham recognizes that all issues cannot be avoided, and we have a plan to address these situations should they arise.  Support will be available to residents on a 24/7 basis to mitigate or eliminate these issues.
Our goal is to set residents up for success.

What transit will be available?
With supports provided on site, there will be minimal need for individuals to go elsewhere for services.
When needed, on-demand transportation can be used. On Demand services were expanded to Brock Township in 2019 by Durham Region Transit (DRT) to ensure the public transit network in Durham Region is a viable option for residents, regardless of where they live.
On Demand is a flexible and convenient option to help you connect to scheduled service or take you where you want to go when scheduled service isn’t an option.

What services are available to residents of the building and what services are available to the larger north Durham community?
Durham Region has established an Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from agencies serving the north, which will help to inform the on-site supports and determine which organization will oversee operations. The Region will also consult with the north Durham community to determine community gaps/needs for services.
This project provides the opportunity to create efficiencies in the provision of support services in the north that will benefit all residents. Although a comprehensive list of supports has not been finalized at this time, services that will be available are mental health and addictions support; medical care (virtual and/or on site); financial assistance, such as Ontario Works, ODSP and/or other financial benefits; rental and tenant support; life skills teaching/counselling and addictions counselling.

How will residents get to stores for things like groceries or medicine?
Meals will be provided to tenants on site, and pharmacy delivery will be available. With supports provided on site, there will be minimal need for individuals to go elsewhere; where needed, on-demand transportation will be used.
There will also be a shared dining/kitchen area that will allow residents to come together, rather than being in isolation from one another.

What policing/security will be provided?
Durham Region is committed to hearing the voices of the local community, and ensuring the safety of the existing residents. Suggestions made by the community will be taken into consideration when developing a security plan that protects both existing residents and residents, staff and volunteers in the supportive housing building. We will be establishing a partnership with DRPS and Durham Region Paramedic Services as part of the community partnerships component (along with community agencies).
Tenants living at the north Durham site will be there because they choose to be, and may leave at any time.  Like any tenant in Ontario, they may also face eviction.

Where will tenants receive medical care with limited doctors available in north Durham?
This is an area that we hope to build relationships in, with our medical/health community. We have had success for people through virtual medicine, and this is an area we want to explore further. We continue to connect with our primary care partners who are always working to make health care access a priority in north Durham.

What will the physical building look like?
The design and look of the modular housing have not yet been determined. As with modular construction in other jurisdictions the building will be designed to complement the surrounding area.

For more information, click HERE.

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