City and Support Agencies Update on Work with Displaced Residents
City of Windsor staff and community support agencies, including Family Services Windsor-Essex (FSWE), have been on site at 245 Detroit Street for several weeks after unsafe building conditions forced tenants to vacate the building. City and agency staff have collectively spent hundreds of hours assessing residents’ needs, helping facilitate permanent housing placements, and directing them to the Homelessness and Housing Help Hub (H4) for further housing-search assistance and other services. To date, more than a dozen households have been successful in finding housing that suits their needs. Displaced residents are encouraged to continue to attend the H4 and emergency shelters for services.
“Approximately 13 individuals are on site at 245 Detroit Street,” says Debbie Cercone, Executive Director, Housing, Homelessness and Children’s Services. “We are encouraged by the tireless efforts of City staff and the outreach workers. It is our hope that those who remain will engage with the services available to help them find new accommodations and supports for daily living.”
Finding affordable, available rental properties continues to be a challenge in Windsor and Essex County. While there are tools available to support successful tenancies, the City and community agencies serving persons experiencing homelessness are constrained by the challenges of the limited housing supply. Landlords and property owners who may have rental options for residents of Detroit Street and the other 440 households who are currently experiencing homelessness in Windsor and Essex County are asked to come forward.
To address concerns raised by neighbours and local businesses, City By-law officials have stepped in to clean up the property. While By-law has held discussions with the property owners, further interventions by any staff, including social services, by-law, building and police, are limited, as the property is privately owned. To date, no work has been undertaken to repair the structure.
Bill Tetler, Manager of By-law Enforcement, notes, “It is a very difficult situation with a privately owned property and a private landlord who declines to participate in finding solutions and places the responsibility onto the City of Windsor, community agencies - and ultimately the tax payer - to manage their issue.”
Intensive supports were provided to residents on site immediately as the gravity of the situation at 245 Detroit Street became apparent. While necessary, such public engagement is not ideal, as it is difficult to maintain privacy and confidentiality in such an open setting. Officials are encouraged by the number of residents who have accepted assistance and urge those remaining on site to access the Homelessness and Housing Help Hub (H4) and local emergency shelters to address their immediate needs for food and shelter, and access housing search supports. All staff recognize an individual’s right to accept or decline any services offered. While good intentioned community members and organizations have provided supplies to individuals who remain on site, such donations may encourage continued encampments on private property, instead of accessing services that provide safe shelter and a pathway to permanent housing.
Through their work over the last several weeks, City and agency staff have connected with displaced residents and provided safe alternatives to sleeping rough. Ultimately 245 Detroit Street is a private property and the responsibility of the property owners. A return to regular operations will take effect immediately, allowing workers to provide much needed assistance in other areas of Windsor and Essex County.
Former 245 Detroit Street tenants, and any other individuals in need of additional assistance, are encouraged to attend the Homelessness and Housing Help Hub (H4) at 400 Wyandotte East, which is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. They can also call or attend one of the local emergency homeless shelters in the community including:
Welcome Centre Shelter for Women and Families, 263 Bridge Avenue, Windsor
Salvation Army (for single men), 355 Church Street, Windsor
Downtown Mission (for single men, single women and families), 875 Ouellette Avenue, Windsor
Landlords and property owners with available housing options are urged to call Housing Information Services at 519-254-4824.