Lessons learned from the AMO 2023 Ending Homelessness Symposium

Michael Jacek, AMO Policy; Robin Jones, Mayor of Westport and ROMA Chair; Karen Redman, Regional Chair of the Waterloo Region; Brian Rosborough, AMO Executive Director; and Jamie McGarvey, AMO Past President

Homelessness has reached disastrous proportions in Ontario, with devastating impacts on people, communities and businesses across the province. Homelessness is a challenge felt first-hand by local governments . 

Homelessness, although more invisible in rural Ontario than in large urban centres, is increasing every year, every month, every week. The Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) formed a Housing Task Force in 2022 that resulted in a white paper in 2023 offering real solutions to the government for attainable housing in rural Ontario. Many of these can be found in the Schedules of Bill 97, legislation introduced in April by the Honourable Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, The success of the ROMA Task Force was largely due to the cooperation of the people who represented municipalities and other organizations. Each recognized that no one person or organization had all of the information, experience, or data. Only by working together, listening to other perspectives and embracing collaboration could such an important report be produced.

I attended the AMO 2023 Ending Homelessness Symposium yesterday and joined other politicians, municipal staff, associations, academics, non- profits and people with lived experience. It was, without a doubt, one of the most thought provoking experiences.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) held this event to provide an important opportunity for attendees to understand experiences from across the province, share ideas with peers and build coordinated and strategically aligned solutions. The Symposium offered perspectives on the root causes of homelessness – including income insecurity, insufficient supply of attainable housing, insufficient responses to mental health and addictions challenges and the policy responses required.  Governments, community and healthcare partners, and the private sector all have a role to play.

The take away from every speaker on every panel is the importance of collaboration. Meaningful collaboration results in better planning, more engagement and wider ownership of both the challenges and solutions.

There is a lot of collaborative work underway in the Village by community groups I want to take a moment to recognize and commend every group, both the formal ones and those that are more loosely organized, who understand and demonstrate that we achieve much more for the Village of Westport through collaboration, communication and civility.

Thank you. From all of us.