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'Concerning' cut to local homelessness funding on horizon

The equivalent of five full-time positions will have to be eliminated as a result of cuts from federal government expected in 2026, says Social Services board
Sault Ste. Marie Social Services CEO Mike Nadeau presents city council in 2023. Nadeau says an expected 58 per cent cut in federal homelessness funding is concerning.

Managers at the local Social Services agency are keeping a watchful eye on an expected cut to federal funding intended to combat homelessness after being told those dollars will be slashed by more than half in 2026.

In 2019, the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB) entered into a five-year agreement with the federal government to receive funding for the Reaching Home Program, a community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness across Canada.

The goal of the program is to reduce chronic homelessness in the country by 50 per cent by the year 2028.

This year, that funding is being used to support a number of positions in the DSSAB and at partner agencies like CMHA, John Howard Society and Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services to find appropriate housing for clients and divert them away from the shelter system.

The local allocation for 2023-24 is $981,254, which included a one-time winter top-up of $201,618.

In December, the DSSAB received word the program will be extended another four years, with $740,992 allocated in its first two years before dropping to $311,485 in 2026-27 and 2027-28.

Reached by telephone on Friday, DSSAB CEO Mike Nadeau said the agency is very concerned about the dramatic drop in homelessness funding, which will lead to a loss of five full-time equivalency positions in its homelessness prevention team.

“Homelessness is increasing so I don't know how we plan for a decrease,” said Nadeau. “It will ultimately mean service compression."

The existing funding level was already identified by the community as not being enough to serve the homeless population even before the cut, said Joanne Pearson, Integrated Program Manager, in a report to the board.

By cutting the funding by 58 per cent starting in 2026, Pearson said the federal government’s goal of reducing chronic homelessness by half by 2028 will not be able to be achieved locally.

“Homelessness is getting more acute locally and any funding removed from the system will have serious consequences in the community,” Pearson said in the report.

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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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