London Council Approves Five New Hubs for Homeless Services

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On Thursday, the concluding arguments of a long-anticipated debate were heard in London’s city council. The council cast their votes in favour of advancing the plans for five proposed homeless hub locations in the city. Earlier, on September 20, city hall had unveiled the intended locations of these hubs which are set to serve Indigenous, youth, women and female-identifying homeless populations.

Embarking at 1 p.m., the council meeting convened to render the verdict on the proposed locations. By late Thursday afternoon, the council had given the nod to the entire homeless hub plan. Every clause, location and site received approval, barring the Fanshawe Park Road West location which is yet to go through a rezoning application process. This will offer another chance for dissenting residents and business owners to put their views into words.

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The next few months see a swift opening of the remaining four hubs. During this meeting, councillors seized the opportunity to voice out their views. Ward 1 Coun. Hadleigh McAlister noted, “Let’s offer hope to the homeless and not sideline this as merely a downtown and east-end problem.”

The call to empathy was powerful in Ward 12 Coun. Elizabeth Peloza’s words, as she pointed towards her own childhood homelessness. Challenging those opposing the Fanshawe location, she spoke of considering the possible future plight of their own families. Ward 4 Coun. Susan Stevenson expressed concerns on safety criticisms surrounding the hubs. She called for a detailed presentation for London’s residents akin to the bus rapid transit project, emphasising the gravity of this decision.

Meanwhile, London Mayor Josh Morgan positioned the homeless hub proposal as an unprecedented initiative. “We have the opportunity to save and change lives. If we persist with the status quo, we will achieve nothing new,” he noted.

Several poignant points about the locations and their leading agencies emerged during the council meeting. The first hub, managed by Atlohsa Family Healing Services, will be at 550 Wellington Rd. with an anticipated opening in December 2023. The youth hub, managed by Youth Opportunities Unlimited, will have two locations at 329 Richmond St. and 800 Commissioners Rd. E, also opening in December 2023 and May 2024 respectively. Lastly, the Canadian Mental Health Association Thames Valley Addiction and Mental Health Services will manage the hub for women and female identifying individuals, with locations at 556 Dundas St. and 705 Fanshawe Park Rd. W, set to open in December 2023 and May 2024, respectively. The location at 705 Fanshawe Park Rd. W currently stands as the most controversial, with local residents and businesses expressing concerns about its proximity to residential neighbourhoods and children’s services.

Once fully operational, the five sites will house 73 beds altogether, with an annual operating budget of $8.1 million. These low-barrier hubs comprise a crucial part of the council-supported Whole of Community Response to Homelessness initiative. The grand scheme proposes up to 15 low-barrier hubs and 600 supportive housing units. The aspirational target is to inaugurate the first 100 housing units and up to five hubs by this December.