According to a presentation to Clarence-Rockland city council by the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR), there are 27 people who have declared themselves homeless in the region, though the real number is likely much higher.
The numbers, based on a self-declared list of individuals last updated in September 2022, state there are atleast three people in Clarence-Rockland who are considered homeless, while Hawkesbury ranks the highest in the UCPR with 14. Five people from Alfred-Plantagenet, one from Champlain, and two from Russell Township declared themselves homeless. Two individuals are currently homeless outside of the UCPR but wish to return if suitable housing was available.
“We said we have 27 people presently, but I am sure we have more in the counties of Prescott-Russell,” said Manon Lalonde, housing stability coordinator at the UCPR, “That is why we are doing these presentations, to raise awareness.”
On top of the homeless population, there is currently a lengthy waitlist for affordable or public housing with thousands of people in need.
Mayor Mario Zanth stressed that the UCPR is working hard to ensure programs are in place for those in need of housing, but the funding for those services is limited.
“Its not a lack of willingness of people like yourself, at this council or even at Prescott-Russell to do something,” said Zanth, addressing Séguin. “It is the enormous price tag with minimal help from certain levels of government.”
Councillor André J. Lalonde said he hopes to see a greater investment going forward to ensure the numbers stay low and diminish over time, unlike in other municipalities where homelessness has hit a crisis level.
“I don’t want to find ourselves in a situation like Ottawa where there is more and more of systemic problem […] and we totally lose control of the situation,” he said, adding the Counties don’t have the same clout with the federal and provincial governments to ask for increased funding. “We need to be forward-thinking to get ahead of this problem before its become serious.”
Someone does not have to be living on the street to be considered homeless. The UCPR also considers those staying with friends or family, in a shelter or hotels, in a tent or trailer or ‘couch-surfing’ as homeless.
According to the Built for Zero Canada, an organization working to track and end homelessness, there are more than 235,000 Canadians recognized as homeless every year. More than 35,000 of those people sleep in a shelter or in the street every night.