Out of the Cold Collingwood Pilot Project
In December 2019, with financial support from the Town of Collingwood, residents and businesses and leadership from a volunteer task force, Community Connection led a successful community mobilization initiative to launch a six-month Out of the Cold Collingwood pilot project to determine the feasibility of permanent emergency shelter services in South Georgian Bay. The overnight winter shelter operated from Dec 2, 2019, through April 25, 2020, serving 53 people, and offering 810 overnight stays with hot meals, showers, and hygiene supplies. Another 41 people were diverted to more appropriate services.
We acknowledge Task Force members, Chair Marg Scheben-Edey, Tracy O’Neil, Gail Michalenko, Pam Hawkins, and Jessica Owen. During its first season, the task force raised $166,022, including $75,000 from the Town of Collingwood. More importantly, they established a strong foundation of community stakeholders (individuals, families, and businesses), who truly care about the most vulnerable people in our community.
While Out of The Cold transitioned into a COVID-19 emergency shelter and operated in 2020, task force members continued to fundraise. Almost $190,000 was raised towards its next full season when the operations were transferred to the Busby Centre.
In the fall of 2020, Community Connection received financial support for a Shelter Feasibility Study from the Town of Collingwood, Clearview Township, The Town of the Blue Mountains, and Grey County, as well as local donors. The study was released in May 2021.
Coordinated Access System for Simcoe County
Reaching Home is Canada’s Homelessness Strategy, a community-based program to prevent and reduce homelessness across Canada. This program funds urban, Indigenous, rural, and remote communities to help them address their local homelessness needs.
Simcoe County is one of 58 urban communities receiving Reaching Home funding and requires a Coordinated Access system. A coordinated access system consists of a centralized database (homeless management system) that collects and analyzes real-time data on clients, defined access points where people enter the system, common/standardized protocols, and prioritization criteria for matching clients to appropriate housing resources.
Community Connection has been approved for Federal Reaching Home funding for five consecutive years (April 2019 through March 2024) by the Community Advisory Board. Our role is leading the development of the Coordinated Access (Entry) system, project administration and reporting and setting up the back-office infrastructure, system implementation, change management and service delivery; oversight of the By Name List and prioritization; and coordination of a training program for service providers on behalf of the Simcoe County Alliance to end Homelessness.
24/7 Housing Helpline and Coordinated Entry
In May 2022, funding partnerships with Bruce, Grey and Simcoe Counties provided the capacity to expand Community Connection’s contact centre to 24/7 operations. Callers dialling 211, and after selecting English, hear an additional recorded message to press 1 for housing help. This option routes the call directly to Community Connection’s specially trained Navigation team.
In Simcoe County, Community Connection was identified as the 24/7 virtual access point for the Coordinated Access System. In this role, our Community Navigators provide telephone access, language interpretation, information, and referrals to programs and services, conduct consent and intake for the By Name List, support clients to become document-ready and maintain current information for active clients.
For Bruce and Grey Counties, Community Connection provides access to the short-term shelter program for people experiencing homelessness. Our Navigators offer service evenings, overnight, weekends, and holidays to support callers seeking emergency shelter, working closely with County staff and the YMCA of Owen Sound Grey Bruce. Community Navigators conduct prevention and diversion, screening and assessment, connecting callers to local supports such as transportation, and accessing HIFIS (Homeless Individuals and Families Information System) managed by each county for client information.
Grey Bruce Home Takeover Pilot Project
Community Connection is participating in a community initiative to support vulnerable tenants who have accommodated unwanted guests in their homes, resulting in precarious living situations.
As a result of an initiative led by the Grey Bruce Public Health Unit to better understand existing responses and gaps in responding to a home takeover, several community partners joined together to participate in a stakeholder survey. As a result, a home takeover advisory committee consisting of housing organizations, mental health services, police, fire, and other community organizations was formed to address the issue collaboratively and reduce the incidence of home takeovers.
As part of the project, a multi-stakeholder Home Takeover Response Framework has been developed as an approach designed to build community partner capacity to prevent, identify, respond to, and support recovery from home takeover.
Community Connection is helping the project better understand the prevalence and geographical locations of home takeovers in Grey County. Using various data sources, identified indicators for home takeovers will be collected and measured using a population health approach. Several key factors contribute to a home takeover. Through the collection of data, these project outcomes will be evaluated:
- Tenants take appropriate action to prevent or resolve home takeover issues they are experiencing.
- Equitable access to services for programs for tenants and perpetrators.
- Practice change: a coordinated community partner approach in responding to home takeovers in community housing neighbourhoods.
- Reduced incidence of home takeovers in community housing.
Closing the Loop for Upstream Homelessness Prevention
Community Connection is one of five regional implementation leads for a national Reaching Home-funded project led by United Way Canada to increase the capacity of the 211 Canada network in reducing and preventing the inflow of vulnerable people into homelessness by facilitating closed-loop referrals with homelessness service partners. The project includes five partners in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Ontario (Collingwood and Thunder Bay), and Alberta. Locally, we have established partnerships with the Grey Bruce Legal Clinic and the County of Grey. We will be seeking 5-6 households for the pilot program.