Little alarm was expressed when Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis unveiled the Request for Proposals (RFP) results seeking organizations to manage low barrier hubs designed to aid London’s homeless populace.
The City staff has recommended the Council approve the establishment of three hubs, slated to open in December with a total of 44 beds. This figure is projected to increase to 73 beds dispersed across five locations by May 2024.
Expectations are set for the second year, where all the three hubs will operate 73 beds at a cumulative cost of $8,158,362. Although each location may have varying budgets, the mean annual cost amounts to $111,759 for each bed.
Lewis rationalized this expenditure by comparing it to the cost of an emergency room bed, stating, “An emergency room bed is half-a-million dollars a year, in comparison, this is about a fifth of the cost.”
Coun. Susan Stevenson joined the conversation on Wednesday, voicing an interest in exploring alternative methods of utilizing the funds, aiming to reach a larger target group. She urged her colleagues to leave nothing to chance, encouraging innovation and creativity in the bid to help more citizens.
Stevenson, while acknowledging the 600 high-need individuals without shelter, criticized the plan of availing 44 new beds by December and an additional 29 by May 2024 as “underwhelming.”
Lewis clarified, emphasizing that the city’s intention was not just to provide shelter but holistic services aimed at catering for the city’s most vulnerable. Unlike the typical emergency shelters, which provide limited services and collective living conditions, the hubs proposed will offer residents individualized spaces and comprehensive support with a focus on initially stabilizing them then transitioning them into supportive housing.
Mayor Josh Morgan, meanwhile, lauded the potential impact of the hubs on the community, terming it as a “tremendous benefit.” He vouchsafed that the gains of the hub system would overwhelmingly exceed the benefits conventional shelter beds offered to its residents and the community at large. He elaborated that the client base that would benefit from these hubs demand substantial resources from the health care system, which includes the hospital system, ambulance services, and police, not to mention business implications.
A council-backed initiative called Whole of Community Response to Homelessness aims to ultimately launch 600 supportive housing units and up to 15 hubs, with the pilot phase targeting to open the initial 100 housing units alongside up to five hubs in December.
On September 20th, the results from an RFP to find Lead Agencies and locations for the first hubs were made public. The staff proposed three hubs that will have services distributed across five locations, all managed by identified lead agencies.
Insuring taxpayers, Lewis stated that the operating expenses for the first three hubs would be funded through existing and readily available resources. He declared, “In terms of the concern for property taxes, this is not coming out of new city funding initiatives at this time.”
Subsequently, the Council’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee will consider the approval of the initial three Lead Agencies and hub locations on September 25, with the final verdict scheduled for October 5.