'Where do I go?': Brockville homeless speak out against lack of housing

A Brockville city councillor and people who are living homeless in the area are pleading for additional housing.

A staple of many eastern Ontario conversations is the lack of housing — an issue that Global News highlighted two weeks ago, when a couple told their story of how they were forced to call a small trailer in a major grocery store parking lot in Belleville, Ont., home after they say rent became too high.

Now, those living without a fixed address 160 kilometres east in Brockville Ont., are urging local politicians to help.

“I don’t have a place to call home, I have no help, and I can’t afford rent, so where do I go?” said a Brockville woman who wanted to stay anonymous.

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Global News spoke to several former, and current homeless people and each said that their siutation was the result of the lack of housing.

“There’s nowhere to live, and the rent has skyrocketed, and even though I’m no longer homeless, I want something done for those who are like I once was,” said Jessica Besharah, who says she was homeless for many years but is now clean and advocating for Brockville’s homeless population.

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The director for Leeds and Grenville Social Services, Allison Tutak, told Global News that social services funds seven short-term stay emergency shelter units in the Brockville area.  They enable people who are homeless to have a place that they can go to for up to 21 days, she said, until they can find more permanent housing.

Although an effective quick solution, she admits it is regularly filled.

“We have noticed that the rental housing market can be difficult in our community as the vacancy rate is low, and it may not be easy to rent safe and affordable housing,” said Tutak via email.

“We have heard anecdotally that it can take a long time for someone to find suitable rental accommodation.”

Leigh Bursey, a Brockville city councillor, is a leading proponent in finding alternative accommodations for Brockville’s homeless. He himself was homeless as a teenager with his mother in the area.

Shelters, however, are just a band-aid solution, he says. These people need fixed addresses and a place to call home.

“As long as we continue to demonize these people in this situation, we have given them no alternative,” said Bursey, addressing the stigma that comes with being homeless.

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Bersey continued to say that there are too many barriers that stand in the way of those struggling to find a roof over their heads, and some need to be taken by the hand and guided in the right direction — an exit interview of sorts, once they leave social housing or any property at which they were living.

“We need have conversations that are like, ‘cool, you’re leaving the property, that’s fantastic, how can I help?'” said Bursey.

It’s an idea that Social Services has mulled over as a possible solution in helping solve homelessness in the Leeds and Grenville area.

“We need, as a community, to better understand the stories of those that are homeless,” said Tulak. “We need to listen and gather these stories.

“There is significant learning through stories, and this is one type of data that we often do not hear enough about and could deeply inform pre-conceived ideas of homelessness and the causes.”

Bursey tells Global News that all levels of government, homeless advocates, and those who are living homeless need to work together to find a solution, as shelters just won’t cut it.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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