Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
April 23, 2024
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Community Consult

Questions about the County’s new transitional housing project are answered
<p>County of Prince Edward Affordable Housing Supervisor Elis Ziegler. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)</p>
County of Prince Edward Affordable Housing Supervisor Elis Ziegler. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

About two dozen interested citizens gathered at Sophiasburgh Town Hall for an informal information session about Leeward House last week. The event was hosted by Affordable Housing Supervisor Elis Ziegler. Questions concerned the origin of the public-private partnership, the rules for the residence, and why near neighbours first learned of the project in the pages of the Jan. 24 Picton Gazette.

Leeward House will be a homeless shelter, or transitional housing facility. It is the result of a collaborative partnership between Prince Edward, Lennox and Addington Social Services, the County of Prince Edward, and the partners at Base31.

The facility will be the first of its kind in the County. Leeward will move nine people directly from homelessness to a supported congregate living environment with on-site staff. Residents will receive programming and the social services supports they require as they move toward permanent, sustainable housing. 

Base31 has purchased the residence and entered into a 25-year lease with the County. It will recoup its mortgage costs through rents levied by the municipality. Costs of support staff are covered through a multi-year grant from PELASS by way of Ontario’s Homelessness Prevention Program.

The Process

Some of the discussion concerned the five current residents of the Maples. Affordable Housing Supervisor Ellis Ziegler confirmed all remaining residents have plans to move to safe and alternate spaces. Options include secondary suites with family members and traditional long-term care homes. Mx. Ziegler noted all former Maples residents will have moved out by the end of this week.

One neighbour wondered about Base31’s involvement and whether the development consortium would profit from the project. With room rental rates at rock bottom, Base31 spokesperson Liz Kohn confirmed the collaboration with the County was a break-even venture. 

Ms. Kohn added that the municipality didn’t have the capital to purchase The Maples and asked the partnership if it would consider the capital investment required.

“From Base31’s standpoint, it’s strictly a break-even venture among the partners. Everything is done from a break-even standpoint and done to support a very important need in Prince Edward County. I can reassure you there is no profit being made. We are simply coming in on a capital-needs basis because the property was available and County wanted to act on it,” she said.

Leeward House’s rural location, well outside of Picton on County Road 5, was also questioned. Mx. Ziegler said that properties of its size and zoning rarely come on the market. The house sits in the middle of 3.5 acres.

“If something came available in Picton, we would be in Picton but buildings like this aren’t in great supply in town,” they said.

House rules

Leeward will be classified as a rehabilitative and therapeutic service facility and is therefore exempt from Ontario’s standard Residential Tenancy Agreement. 

Leeward will be a non-smoking facility. But residents will have freedoms regarding cannabis and alcohol. Those substances are legal to consume but there will be strict rules regarding consumption, including restricted areas inside the home.

“Are there going to be beer and marijuana parties in the house? Absolutely not. Part of our resident action plan will describe what safe use looks like,” Mx. Ziegler said, adding residents will have access to substance abuse organizations.

“On the other hand, a dry shelter creates more problems because people will be trying access more illicit drugs in illegal ways to self medicate. They really don’t solve the underlying problem,” noted Mx. Ziegler.

Rules on visiting hours, the number of visitors, and activities allowed inside house and on the property are being developed. Residents contravening the rules of the house will be shown the door almost immediately.

When asked why neighbouring residents weren’t told about the proposal before Council approved the undertaking, Mx. Ziegler explained it was out of respect for the current Maples residents, still in the process of finding accommodations. 

Leeward neighbour Donna Joyce said she appreciated the opportunity to ask pointed questions of municipal staff regarding the transition home.

She predicted that the home will be successful in its mission to move homeless Prince Edward County people off the streets. But Ms. Joyce maintains the County should have notified neighbouring residents when discussions between The Maples owners, Base31 and the municipality were ongoing.

“There are still some concerns about the way the municipality went about this in terms of lack of notification. I received a municipal notice about tree trimming in Wellington today but I had to read about (Leeward) in your newspaper,” Ms. Joyce told the Gazette. “That wasn’t fair to us.” 

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 10 edition of The Picton Gazette
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