Lanark County Grant Funds Housing Advocacy Work

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

 
What kinds of food do you offer to a person experiencing homelessness, couch surfing, or otherwise living without the means to prepare or keep their food refrigerated? This is a question the staff at The Table Community Food Centre have to grapple with on a regular basis. While equitable access to healthy food is their focus, and is what typically gets people to the Centre, it is rarely the only issue community members are contending with.

When Lanark County Social Housing announced a one-time grant opportunity under their Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative the Table Community Food Centre jumped at the chance to apply for funds to work toward addressing a serious social problem in our community, housing. The staff at The Table is thrilled to announce that the County has approved our request for $28,000, over two years for our Advocacy Program to work on housing issues.

Why is a community food centre addressing housing issues? The Table recognizes that participants accessing the Centre are often coping with a variety of issues over and above the need for food. While their main focus is firmly rooted in connecting people to healthy food they are also committed to assisting low income participants with other issues resulting from or exacerbated by poverty. Over the past year The Table’s Advocacy Office was open 162 days and saw 343 visits by 134 distinct community members. The number one issue people sought assistance with was housing; housing searches, homelessness, mold issues and repairs, inability to pay utilities/rent, hoarding, landlord disputes and more. 

The Table will use this grant to get creative about how they work with low income community members on issues that are known to have a high impact on community members’ ability to retain housing: addiction/harm reduction, mental health, employment opportunities, education and skill development, domestic violence, budgeting, nutrition, and more. Over the next two years The Table’s Advocacy Program will offer workshops, training and information sessions and individual support to interested low income community members. Training sessions will include workshops on tenant and landlord rights for both tenants and landlords.

One of the unique elements of the project will be developed and delivered in partnership with the Lanark County Community Justice Program. The two groups will collaborate to train peer advocates in the restorative justice model. Once trained, the advocates will apply their new skills to working with landlords and low income renters to find mutually agreeable solutions, reducing the use of the formal Landlord Tenant Board process and preventing evictions.

The Table’s Advocacy Office offers resources, support and referrals to community members on wide array of issues ranging from help replacing lost identification, filling out forms, accompanying people to appointments, assisting people in their housing search and more. The office is staffed by trained peer advocates who have their own experiences of living on low incomes and navigating social services. Anyone in need of assistance with an issue who is unsure where to go or what to do, should consider reaching out to the advocates.

A version of this post was published in the Perth Courier on March 12th.