Hydro arrears trouble council

By Chad Ingram

Haliburton County residents generated 20 per cent of requests for financial assistance from those who are homeless or on the brink of homelessness from the Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton Housing Help Centre last year.

Hope Lee CEO of the Kawartha Lakes Haliburton Housing Corporation gave a presentation to Haliburton County councillors Feb. 17 reporting on the first year of the Housing Help Centre.
The centre located in Lindsay was conceived by Kawartha Lakes council in 2014 and integrates funding from a number of provincial programs into a single entity.
Provincial social services and housing funding is delivered jointly to the county and City of Kawartha Lakes.

The centre provides homelessness prevention programming assistance with housing needs and signing up for social service programs such as Ontario Works or the child care subsidy. It also provides assistance for landlords and tenants as well as help with utility payments and home repairs.
“Most of our requests are for financial assistance” Lee told councillors explaining those requests were from those who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness.
There were almost 2000 requests during the year 20 per cent of them coming from Haliburton County.
The county has a permanent population of about 17000 the City of Kawartha Lakes just below 80000.

Those requests resulted in 1200 payments 20 per cent of them paid to county residents. Hope said the average payment was about $700. The requests take about three days to process.
Hope told councillors there is a waiting list of more than 1000 to get into the 1050 units controlled by the housing corporation.

Most the demand is for one-bedroom units. While in the City of Kawartha Lakes it’s singles and couples who are the most in need in Haliburton County it’s seniors.

There is also programming for those not on social assistance such as the utility arrears program and low-income energy assistance program.
“The numbers that jump off the sheet are the hydro arrears” said Minden Hills Reeve Brent Devolin.
The help centre made total payments of some $267000 to help residents with their hydro bills. In the county there were 58 hydro arrears payments totalling more than $113000 for an average payment of nearly $2000. In the City of Kawartha Lakes there were 122 payments totalling more than $153000.

Devolin asked if the program the province itself recently introduced to help residents struggling with the cost of electricity would help reduce those figures.
“Something has to happen” Lee said.
While the centre is located in Lindsay Lee noted that half the users in 2015 did not enter the building itself but used digital communication or went through community partners such as library branches.
“It was never intended to be a one-stop shop where somebody had to visit a physical location” she said.

The centre operates with funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services’ consolidated homelessness prevention emergency energy fund emergency hostel services and domiciliary hostel programs and Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s provincial rent bank.