The District of Parry Sound Social Services Administration Board has been able to find homes for 26 people who are going through homelessness in the region including the Almaguin Highlands.
The Ontario Government recently required organizations, like the social services administration boards, to keep a comprehensive list of every person they know is experiencing homelessness.
The list is called the By-Name List.
With the homeless person’s consent, his or her name is added to the list, and if they get into housing, then their name is removed from the By-Name List.
The Parry Sound DSSAB says the By-Name List allows it to keep track of how homelessness changes in the District of Parry Sound like if it’s growing or shrinking and the sex breakdown of the homeless population.
The DSSAB says having this detailed record of people on the By-Name List helps ensure homeless people don’t fall through the cracks.
The DSSAB says a person on the By-Name List isn’t just a number but a human being with a name who is known and recognized and can be cared for during a difficult time in their life.
The By-Name List includes the individual’s background, health issues if any, their homeless history and their housing needs.
The DSSAB’s Housing Stability team compiles the information and with the individual’s consent, the team can share the information with other organizations that also provide services to homeless people thereby increasing the continuum of care.
The DSSAB says the list helps restore human dignity to the person going through homelessness.
In instances where a person’s name comes off the By-Name List because they found a home, their name remains on a database so they are easily identifiable in case they become homeless again.
Tammy MacKenzie, who is the Chief Administration Officer with the Parry Sound DSSAB, says the By-Name List helps the organization go “the extra mile.”
MacKenzie says the list helps DSSAB track the person’s housing progress and also transforms how homeless people are thought about and cared for in Parry Sound District.
MacKenzie points out that prior to the By-Name List any DSSAB’s Community Relations Worker faced limitations to get services or help to the homeless because of the anonymity of the enumeration system.
But since starting the By-Name List last October, the local DSSAB has compiled the names of 71 people and has been able to find housing for about a third of the people in this group.
DSSAB says when the public thinks of the word ‘homeless’ it brings to mind people living on the street asking others for spare change.
And while this is an accurate depiction, DSSAB says this is the visible form of homelessness.
The Parry Sound DSSAB says there is also the invisible category of homelessness where a person doesn’t necessarily lack shelter, but lacks stability.
DSSAB says this type of homlessness is most often found in rural areas where it’s less likely to see people actually living on the streets.
DSSAB says if there is no nearby emergency shelter within walking distance, the rural setting will find a person lacking stability not sleeping on a community sidewalk, but rather in their car, shed, an RV or more commonly on the couch of a friend or relative.
Without the By-Name List it would be tough to know who the people are that fall into this category.
The Parry Sound DSSAB wants to help these people and in an effort to grow the By-Name List it’s asking individuals and community agencies to contact it if they know someone who is couch-surfacing.
But it also wants to know of people who may be homeless with nowhere to go, or are at risk of becoming homeless or struggling to maintain their home.
The number to call is 705-746-7777 Extension 5269.
Also going online at www.psdssab.org/bynamelist will provide more information about the By-Name List program.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.