Cochraine District Social Services Admin seeks housing solution

By Ron Grech, The Daily Press (Timmins)

Thursday, August 1, 2013 7:36:28 EDT PM

TIMMINS – Iroquois Falls has provided a “perfect example” of how social housing for seniors should be funded.

Now, the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board would like to see this model adopted on a broader scale.

The 10 supportive housing units in Iroquois Falls is unique in the sense that it is partially funded by the province through the North East Local Health Integration Network.

Brian Marks, director of housing services with the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board, said it makes perfect sense for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to contribute to seniors housing.

“When we look at the long-term care crisis we’re facing in Timmins and the inappropriate useage of health-care facilities at Timmins and District Hospital, we know the burden can be lifted if the (health-related) supports could just be delivered where the seniors already live,” said Marks. “We’ve got hundreds of seniors who live in units that need supports, and they’re not getting them. So guess where they go?

“They end up in the emergency room or they end up on the third floor at TDH unnecessarily.”

Marks will be attending the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa in two weeks, where he will be making a pitch to health ministry officials to provide more funding into seniors housing.

In the meantime, Marks and a team of representatives from CDSSAB were in Iroquois Falls Thursday, hosting the last in a series of five public consultation sessions on social housing.

The two previous days, they held sessions in Hearst, Kapuskasing, Smooth Rock Falls and Cochrane.

The information being collected from these sessions will be used to develop a 10-year housing plan for the district. The intent is to ensure social housing needs are met in communities throughout the district.

“We’ve been getting good suggestions on some of the things that absolutely need to be considered in a housing plan,” said Marks.

“Certainly the common issue across all of the communities is seniors. We know the seniors population in Northern Ontario is aging at a greater rate than the provincial average. It’s a critical issue. Seniors want to age in their communities. They don’t want to have to move someplace else to get care.”

The public consultation meetings held this week were attended by residents, people with an interest in seniors’ housing, municipal leaders, community developers, and representatives from the Aboriginal community.

Marks said he is hoping to have a draft form of the plan recirculated to the communities by September.

“I have deadlines with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to have it in before the end of September so the ministry can have their 90-day review. It has to be in place by Jan. 1, 2014.

“It’s an aggressive timeline only because a lot of the income data isn’t available from Statistics Canada until sometime in October.”