Terrilee Kelford is insistent and persistent; she spoke to Smiths Falls council several months ago, and last night she made an “ask” to Perth’s Committee of the Whole. She knows a lot about tiny homes for homeless kids, and she’s convinced that any future these kids might have depends on giving them a good start. The final slide of her presentation (one she spoke about with noticeable pride) showed a teen, one of Cornerstone Landing Youth Services clients, receiving his high school graduation diploma in Smiths Falls.
Kelford, Chair of Cornerstone Landing, a registered non-profit charitable organization in Lanark County, says they have seen 70 percent reduction in homelessness in the last two years. Now, however, they have lost a grant and a full-time staff person and “within two months … saw a spike in homelessness.
“It would be nice if we got some funding,” she said, which can come in a variety of ways. She described Cornerstone’s inside workings as one with “zero funding, we do it all on our own through fundraising and a lot of volunteer work; we have no admin, no office, no mobile, and a working board…”
Consider this, she said: Young people have about $700 a month to live on, and rent costs them $600. They have $100 a month to feed themselves, pay hydro, pay for school supplies.
“It’s impossible to do.
“Investing in youth means investing in community. House kids, get them back into school and they do quite well.”
She added that “creative housing” opens doors to other vulnerable populations, like seniors. There are lots of women [and men] who are seniors and single. They have limited income. They could own a tiny home which would provide dignity and respect.
Her second “ask” was to consider inclusionary development in the Town’s official plans and by-laws, by making part of that “building tiny homes.
“We are asking to please consider allowing this.”
Councillor Brown commented that the benefits of tiny homes “outweigh the costs. Secondary units are great.”
Mayor Fenik told council members, those others present and the media a story: “Two weeks ago, I got an email from the clerk asking to call a woman who needed help. ‘I’m living in a tent,’ she said, ‘I have a severe allergy to mould, I’m living on ODSP, I get $1,000 per month with $600 of that going for housing.’
Fenik went the usual route, social services being first. “Social services is not working at all,” he said, a bit dismissively.
The story continued: “There’s a tiny house for sale in Gatineau, she said, and I have a place to put it but I don’t have the money to buy it.”
Mayor Fenik went to see the house; it costs $35,000. A GoFundMe page has been started. It has been his experience, he added, that the pressure point in society is the “very young and the older.
“I will be absolutely asking for inclusionary homing somewhere in Perth. Im sure we can make that happen.”
Councillor Brown’s motion, carried unanimously, was to refer the information to town staff and get a recommendation to come back to council in November.
Kelford concluded her presentation: “Be a leader, not a follower. This is going to happen whether people like it or not; it’s just an issue of when, not how.”