For the last seven decades, LOFT has been providing personalized care and services to youth, adults, and seniors experiencing homelessness, using substances and/or living with mental health concerns.
A recent late-night drive around Markham confirmed that several people were living out of their vehicles. This disappointing but eye-opening outing was followed by an interview with LOFT community services.
Coordinator Mary Ann Proulx and Lori Kerr, Director at LOFT Crosslinks Housing & Support Services as well as LOFT Street Outreach & Services Network, describe their responsibilities, experiences, and impressions of those they serve in York Region.
Proulx explains that in comparison to the past, she is seeing more people who are fully employed living in their vehicles. She relates, “People who receive government assistance, as well as low-income individuals or families, are locked out of the housing market.” Kerr agrees and explains, “LOFT offers supportive housing and rental subsidies. When accessing the competitive/private market for rental units, rents can be higher than the market value.”
As a result, there are approximately 16,000 names on the waitlist for social housing units with Housing York Inc.
“It can take years to acquire a unit with them,” Kerr says. On average, 300 people are successfully housed each year.
In addition to housing, Proulx adds that LOFT provides a street outreach van.
The van provides people who are homeless, and at risk of homelessness, with food, shelter supplies, blankets, harm reduction supplies and clothing. Most importantly, they build relationships. Proulx relates, “Some people we meet have experienced trauma. It takes time to win their trust.” Kerr adds that the van is staffed by professionals who know how to respond to complex situations. They are trained in harm reduction and call upon other support services as needed, including EMS for medical concerns.
Both have had many rewarding experiences.
Proulx recalls helping a woman successfully transition from the street to being in a shared apartment.
Kerr describes the experience as great, helping people develop new ways to live successfully in their community. She says that for some, this has been an opportunity for rebuilding family relationships.
Kerr and Proulx agree that their biggest challenge in Markham is the availability of affordable housing and the need for flexible support for those in a social housing situation.
Story submitted by Andrew Fuyarchuk.