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Homelessness, Mental Health and Addictions

Seeking solutions for people that live on the street in Kingston is a priority for the Downtown Kingston BIA, the City of Kingston, and our partners. We know that it won’t be solved overnight but do have a number of initiatives beginning to roll out to help address what is a very complex matter.

I will tell you that downtown Kingston is not alone. Homelessness, mental health, and addiction challenges have increased in downtown cores across Ontario and Canada in the last 3 years, particularly in the summer months. There is a growing opioid crisis across Canada as well as an affordable housing deficit. Add to that the pandemic and rising costs of living and the result is a sharp increase of vulnerable individuals and families on the streets in the majority of cities across the nation.

There are a number of initiatives that the Downtown Kingston BIA, the City of Kingston, and our partners have been working on that I want to share with you as a BIA member. This is an ongoing, ever-evolving process that the BIA will continue to be involved with.

Working collaboratively with the City of Kingston, Tourism Kingston, and local social service providers (United Way, Home Base Housing, AMHS-KFLA, and more) we identified gaps in service in the community. From there a number of short, medium, and long-term solutions were outlined in a report to Council for consideration. The report outlined resources needed, responsibilities, and execution of a multi-layered plan to address some of the challenges for the vulnerable in the downtown community. This was the result of meetings of a Community Focus Group (CFG) where concerns related to lack of services and impacts on the vulnerable population and downtown businesses were identified. The report was unanimously approved by Council

Listed below are the recommendations that were approved at the March 1st Council Meeting:

  1. That Council approve up to $150,000 from the Social Services Stabilization Fund to support the addition of two (2) one-year Outreach Workers within the existing Street Outreach Program operated by Home Base Housing, to be dedicated to the City’s downtown area; and  Note: Update on Street Outreach Program
  2. Update: As of November, 2022, 'One-Call' the Street Outreach pilot program has been canceled due to lack of resources.
    Please refer to the information on our 'Who to call' page to familiarize yourself and your staff with the process when assistance is needed with an individual who appears to be street-involved*, vulnerable or suffering from mental health/addictions challenges.

  3. That Council approve up to $200,000 from the Social Services Stabilization Fund to extend the operations of the “Warming Centre” located at 218 Concession Street, in partnership with United Way, Lionhearts, and Home Base Housing, for a period of three (3) months, until the end of June 2022 to allow time for homeless and housing services to stabilize. 

For more details refer to Downtown Improvement Plan Approved.

Other initiatives:

  • The Downtown Core now has a dedicated Police Officer during the day that is focused on addressing crime-related issues
  • We are hoping to create a ‘one-call’ system for our members and employees when they need assistance. From there, the correct services will be contacted
  • A dedicated Safety and Security page will be built for the website that will have up-to-date resources
  • Encampments and some of the challenges that come with them are being addressed by a group from the City
  • Our downtown core dedicated bylaw officer and our police liaison are meeting weekly with me (Marijo) to strategize on ways to address events in the downtown core that need varying levels of assistance
  • The Ontario government is providing $4.6 million to extend the operation of Kingston’s Integrated Care Hub (Kingston ICH). This funding will allow the Kingston ICH to continue its important work serving the city’s most vulnerable, including individuals experiencing chronic homelessness and those who face complex mental health and addictions challenges. Read more
  • A Safety and Security toolkit’  has been developed for all BIA’s across Ontario by Iain DeJong, Author of ‘The Book on Ending Homelessness. If you would like a copy of this book, contact
  • I continue to be involved in the Homelessness Collective Impact Committee run by Bhavana Varma from the United Way

Solving what is a very complex issue is going to take time, collaboration, and a huge amount of effort on everyone’s part – including yours. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me regarding this topic., 

Great references: