“Everyone needs a place to live.”
That philosophy is what has been guiding Chantal Perry, Program Manager, Homelessness Prevention, Employment & Social Services for Chatham-Kent over the past six years of the municipality’s homelessness initiative.
The Chatham-Kent report on Housing and Homelessness, presented by the CK Housing and Homelessness co-chaired by Polly Smith and Shelley Wilkins, showed progress in 2018, which was Year Five of the 10-year initiative.
The committee determined the rising cost of housing, declining vacancy rates and decreasing household income is making it harder for people to find and keep affordable housing, and in a current situation in Chatham, tenants at a central Chatham apartment building are worried they will be evicted or unable to afford a jump in rent, as new owners clean up and renovate what one tenant calls the “last affordable place to live in Chatham.”
In a call to The Chatham Voice, a tenant who works full time but would be considered one of the working poor, was concerned she would be evicted from her apartment or forced to pay $300 more in rent a month which she could not afford.
While glad the new owner was cleaning up the problem with drug dealers in the building, the tenant feared the “good” tenants would be forced out as well, with nowhere else to go in the area that was affordable.
Parry said people in those situations are exactly the people the municipal program is helping to keep their tenancy or find a new place to live.
“In 2018, in a partnership between Employment & Social Services and the Chatham-Kent Legal Clinic, a housing stability paralegal began assisting low-income residents with housing related legal issues,” Parry said in an e-mail. “The Chatham-Kent Legal Clinic provides referrals, legal advice, legal representation, Tenant Duty Counsel services, and public legal education and community outreach.”
Referrals flooded in from community partners, and 64 tenancies were saved from September to December 2018, and Parry said the numbers over a one-year period are even more encouraging.
Paralegal Jeff Wilkins has been helping people know their rights as a tenant, what is cause for eviction and what constitutes a legal eviction notice.
The legal clinic hours are Monday to Thursday: 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Friday: 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The areas of law covered are:
- Tenant Rights (RTA) (Tenants only)
- Ontario Works (OW)
- Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
- Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and CPP Disability
- Disability Issues
- Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB)
- Wills & Powers of Attorney
- Employment Law
- Human Rights in the Workplace
Parry said tenants can reach out to the CKLC at 519-351-6771 to get help with any of the above issues or to speak with the housing paralegal.
For any tenant or landlord that would like to learn more about their rights and responsibilities, there is also the RentSmart Education Certification Program. Available sessions are coming up in October. Check it out at RentSmart.
Parry added that anyone in Chatham-Kent that is having housing problems can contact Employment & Social Services at 519-351-8573. They will be connected with a housing support person to help guide them through any issue they might be having.
Information about municipal programs and services can be found at www.chatham-kent.ca/ess.