FORT FRANCES — Mayor Andrew Hallikas said the increase in funding for homelessness programs is very good news because it can target where the need is greatest.
The province announced on Tuesday an increase in funding to the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board for the Homelessness Prevention Program and Indigenous Supportive Housing Program. The additional $592,000 will bring the total 2023-2024 allocation to over $1.1 million.
“It's an innovative program because it doesn't specify where the funding has to go. So there's flexibility which makes it then much more useful to communities,” said Hallikas.
“The program is designed to provide affordable housing and support services for people at risk or who are presently experiencing homelessness, but it, it doesn't dictate or mandate that it has to be spent.”
“So you can make sure it will have the greatest impact on reducing and preventing homelessness,” he said.
Hallikas said it is up to the district services board to determine where the funding will be allocated and in which communities, but he thinks some projects in Fort Frances are good candidates to get part of the new funding. These include the warming centre on Victoria Avenue, which was a former church purchased by the services board that has safe and transitional beds, and the former St. Michael’s School.
“We're going to be putting in affordable housing for seniors in there, a variety of housing and then in the school yard, the plan is to build a number of eight-plexes, which would be affordable housing for a variety of demographics,” he said.
“So obviously all of that is going to take money and we're in the process of getting funding and I suspect some of this funding might go into that project as well.”
“The increase will be instrumental in continuing to deliver existing programs and further enhancing additional strategies to end homelessness,” said Dan McCormick, chief administrative officer of the Rainy River DSSAB, in a news release.
“Our government understands how critical RRDSSAB’s services are to improving the physical, mental and social well-being of our community’s most vulnerable,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Member of Provincial Parliament for Kenora Rainy-River, in the release.