Council's Emergency and Community Services Steps Up for Most Vulnerable Among Us

Councillors vote to continue supporting Hamilton’s most vulnerable citizens by funding programs cut by the province in 2012, but a bigger crisis looms – City social service reserves being used run out in 2014 and there’s no plan for 2015.

Also, Councillors vote to very slightly increase Domiciliary Hostel per diems, fund more beds and social workers for homeless women, and Hamilton’s new EMS Chief plans changes to address the growing number of Code Zero Events.

All decisions subject to Council approval on Wednesday

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AGENDA

DELEGATION REQUESTS
4.1 Peter Hutton, Hamilton Poverty Roundtable Advisory Panel on Transportation, to address Item 8.1 respecting the Affordable Transit Pass Program
4.2 Calvin Cain, representing the Ontario Homes for Special Needs Association and the Residential Care Facility Operators in the Hamilton region wishing to speak to Item 8.2 respecting the Domiciliary Hostel Review

CONSENT ITEMS
5.1 Various Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes:
     (a) Seniors Advisory Committee – September 6, 2013
     (b) Seniors Advisory Committee – October 4, 2013
     (c) Hamilton Veterans Committee – September 10, 2013
     (d) Food & Shelter Advisory Committee – September 12, 2013
5.2 Recreation Needs Assessment for Persons with Disabilities Progress Update (CS13043)
5.3 Capital Projects’ Status Report as of September 30th, 2013 (CS13036(a))
5.4 Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion – Funding Agreement (CS11023(f))
5.5 Amending the Standardization of Various Hamilton Fire Department Emergency Equipment (CS13047)

*PUBLIC HEARINGS/ DELEGATIONS
*
Approved Delegation Requests (see above)

STAFF PRESENTATIONS
7.1 Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative Review (CS13017(a))

DISCUSSION ITEMS
8.1 Affordable Transit Pass Pilot Program Extension (CS13050)
8.2 City of Hamilton Domiciliary Hostel Review (CS10036(c))
8.3 Update on Efforts to Mitigate Funding Pressure to Discretionary Benefits delivered by the Special Supports Program (CS13009(b))
8.4 Pressure at Emergency Shelters Serving Single Homeless Women (CS13051)
8.5 Hamilton Paramedic Service Code Zero Update January 1, 2013 to October 31, 2013 (CS13019)
8.6 Hamilton Farmers’ Market Sub-Committee Report 13-002


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Hamilton’s homelessness crisis is being addressed by City Council, despite an absence of provincial and federal funding. The province cut funding supports in 2012, and Council has been stop-gapping “discretionary” benefits for Hamilton’s most vulnerable citizens ever since.

Today, Council voted to continue funding supports in 2014 with the final social service reserve funds remaining. In 2015, if the province doesn’t reverse its cuts, the City will be forced to cut benefits funding.

Summary of Decisions:

  • APPROVED: $2,192,755 to fund social services to prevent and address homelessness (story and video replay)
  • APPROVED: Continuing the HSR Affordable (50%) Monthly Bus Pass Program
  • APPROVED: Increasing Residential Care Facility per diem by $.50 in 2014. (story)
  • APPROVED: Changes to Administering Special Supports for cost-savings (summary)
  • APPROVED: Increased funding for beds at Mary’s Place for homeless women, and social workers to assist homeless women into stable housing. $99,075 and $152,815 respectively (story and video replay)
  • RECEIVED: A report from the new EMS Chief on Hamilton’s Code Zero Ambulance Events Crisis
Full Meeting Replay

The Homelessness Crisis in Hamilton: the Human and Financial

Staff Presentation by Gillian Hendry, Hamilton’s Director of Housing and Homelessness Programs
Debate that followed.

Homelessness, and the risk of homelessness, is a major crisis in our community. It impacts thousands of people in Hamilton and requires complex supports to manage.

Food banks are the first line of defense, with the homeless shelters as the final resource.

In 2012, the provincial government cut must of its support for these services to assist those on social assistance who need the services. The City stepped in and is covering the cost of the provincial cuts in 2014 at a cost of $2,192,755.

Council’s E&CS committee unanimously approved the stop gap by draining a reserve fund for unexpected social service emergencies.

There are no identified funding sources for 2015. Unless the province reverses its cuts or Council finds a new funding source, food banks and services to assist/prevent homelessness will face severe cuts.

Increase RCF per diems

The City’s own review of funding for Domiciliary Hostels (Residential Care Facilities) says the per diem rate should be $55 per bed. The industry believes it should be $65. In reality, it’s presently $47.75.

E&CS approved increasing the rate – for the first time in years – by $0.50, which will cost $142,715 in 2014.

To get to $55 will cost the City $2,069,368 per year. Councillors say they want to get there, and need the province to again pay for programs they’ve cut to free up funds for RCF funding.

Supporting Homeless Women

Councillors voted to give one-time funding to Hamilton’s only homeless shelter for women to quickly increase the number of beds available from 20 to 30 on a temporary basis in response to an increase in homeless women seeking bed space and support at Mary’s Place. $99,075 in one-time funding, the extra beds will be in place until May 31, 2014.

They also voted to fund more social workers to assist in preventing and overcoming homelessness among single women in the City at an increase cost of $152,815 for 2014.

Councillors directed the Mayor to lobby the provincial government on the matter.

Renee Wetselaar of the Social Planning and Research Council provided Councillors an informative presentation that explained the unique complexities of how women experience homelessness:

Code Zero EMS Events

The number of times Hamilton is short of transport ambulances is increasing, with 187 Code Zero Ambulance Events from January to October 2013, an average once every day-and-a-half. The average length of time for CZAEs is up to 1.3hrs (1:18).

Hamilton’s relatively new Paramedic Chief Michael Sanderson says he’s going to make changes to address the issue and try to get more transport ambulances on the road.

Editors Note: This will be a separate story for publication on Tuesday.


Original Preview Story

It’s all bad news on this agenda.

The City’s Homelessness Prevention Initiatives are no longer cost-shared with the province and for 2014, the City is using reserve funds as a stop-gap while they lobby the province to reverse cuts. Concerning is there is no funding for these programs identified for 2015.

Affordable Transit Passes, monthly passes at a 50% discount for those on social assistance or earning a low wage, are recommended to continue in 2014 with staff bringing forth a report in March on a program for discounting transit for those with disabilities.

The City is streamlining discretionary benefits – those cut by the province in 2012 – to contain costs and increase supports to low-wage earners.

Hamilton’s only emergency homeless shelter for women is getting an emergency increase in funding to increase beds from 20 to 30 to respond to an increase in women requiring emergency assistance. The City is increasing supports as well to get homeless single women into stable housing. It’s proposed to increase the 2013 budget for these programs by $251,890, including the shelter expansion.

Our Transport Ambulance crisis worsens in 2013, with the number of times that one or no transport ambulances were available to respond to calls across the entire city increasing and the length of time of each event is increasing as well.

ITEMS OF NOTE

Homelessness Prevention Initiatives Funding Crisis (7.1)  |  Affordable Transit Passes (8.1)  |  Discretionary Benefits Cuts (8.3)  |  Single Homeless Women Crisis (8.4) Ambulance Code Zero Events Crisis (8.5)

Homelessness Prevention Initiative Funding Crisis (7.1)

Hamilton’s homeless prevention initiatives cost $2,192,755 in 2013, the first year the province was no longer cost-sharing the programs. The City is now completely on the hook for any unexpected increase in homelessness or those at risk of losing their housing.

City staff are using reserve funds to maintain programs in 2014, and will exhaust those reserves. There is no funding for these programs in 2015, staff will report back in September 2014 on what to do about this looming crisis.

Funding Crisis From Provincial Cuts

City staff have found the funds to continue the programs into 2014, but are warning Council there are no identified funding sources for 2015. Staff will return in September 2014 to address the looming 2015 crisis.

In the meanwhile, staff are recommending the Mayor lobby the provincial government to “adequately and appropriately” fund the programs.

Staff are dipping into the final reserves designated for these programs, leaving only $129,100 at the end of 2014 for emergencies.

Changes to Shelter funding

Emergency Shelters will now be funded on a block basis, instead of per-bed per-night. The report says this will provide more stability to both the City and shelters. Shelters have fixed costs, and the per-bed used formula creates the appearance the shelters benefit from keeping individuals homeless.

Increase RCF per diems

Per diem funding for Residential Care Facilities will increase from $47.75 to $48.25 per day. This will cost the City an additional $142,715 in 2014. **

Currently, the City funds 782 RCF beds. Staff say that any additional beds will go onto a waiting list for funding.

Food Bank Funding

Food banks will continue to receive $350,000 annually from the homelessness prevention initiatives funding. The 2014 funding will be completely funded from City reserves.

Staff note that, like all other programs, there is no funding source at present for 2015.

Affordable Transit Passes (8.1)

Staff are recommending a continuation of the affordable transit pass program that enables those with low income to purchase a HSR monthly bus pass at a 50% discount.

The annual cost of the program for 2014 is $304,350 and an average of 442 people use the program in an average month.

The City will pay $89,575 more for the program in 2014 compared to 2013 as the province no longer cost shares the cost of discounted transit passes for those on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program.

Staff will be returning to E&CS in March with a report to implement the discounted monthly pass on PRESTO cards.

Staff will also present on Council’s request to explore a new transit discount program for those with disabilities.

Discretionary Benefits Cuts (8.3)

City Hall continues to respond to provincial cuts to discretionary benefits for those on social assistance (OW/ODSP). In 2012, the cuts cost the City $1,816,727. In 2013, $3,756,517.

In response the City is cutting costs on some benefits such as adult dentures, back dental fillings, and implementing more electronic tracking of benefits to ensure there is not overlap.

The City is also harmonizing its supports for those working with low incomes to ensure they receive the same benefits as those on social assistance.

The changes are expected to keep 2014 costs at or below 2013 costs.

The province is promising to upload all discretionary benefit costs by 2018.

Single Homeless Women Crisis (8.4)

The City’s shelters for single homeless women are overwhelmed and the City’s responding with an increase in funding to assist the shelters.

Staff are recommending an addition of $251,890 to the 2013 budget to increase the number of beds at Mary’s Place to 30 from 20, and to add additional supports to assist homeless women to find stable housing.

Ambulance Code Zero Events Crisis (8.5)

The number of times Hamilton is short of transport ambulances is increasing, with 187 Code Zero Ambulance Events from January to October 2013, an average once every day-and-a-half. The average length of time for CZAEs is up to 1.3hrs (1:18).

This despite Council adding one 12-hour ambulance shift during peak times to compensate for the closure of the McMaster hospital emergency room to adults.

When there are no transport ambulances, the advanced care paramedic SUVs and Paramedic supervisors respond to calls to ensure response times continue to meet standards.

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