Homelessness on the rise in Uxbridge and north Durham

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Published July 5, 2022 at 10:25 am

The perception in Durham Region’s rural north is that there is no homelessness and little poverty because the problems are not as visible as they are in the bigger cities to the south.

But inadequate housing issues and poverty are alive and, unfortunately, thriving in Durham’s three northern municipalities. The difference is, unlike the big cities, they are often hidden from view.

According to North House, an Uxbridge-based charity that has been assisting people with housing issues for nearly twenty years, the homeless in North Durham “don’t live on the street, covered in sleeping bags. They’re your friend’s adult child who moved home with their children due to the high cost of rent, the cousin who sleeps on your couch while searching for an affordable apartment, or the teenager you frequently see in front of the corner store.”

Ron Houston, the Chair of North House, was in Uxbridge Council last week asking for the Township’s help in fighting homelessness.

“We are trying to help people who are experiencing a crisis of homelessness,” Houston said. “People deserve a safe and affordable place to call home. They deserve a roof over their head and food on their plate.”

The number of people the organization is trying to help has risen dramatically this year, jumping from 177 last May to 454 in 2022. The tornado which hit the town in late May – causing widespread devastation – has made the problem worse and also made the issues much more visible, Houston added.

“Homelessness in north Durham may be well hidden, but it’s less hidden now. The tornado has exposed the visibility of the issue.”

North Durham is currently helping 20 families left homeless by the tornado.

There are no shelters in north Durham and aside from a 50-unit supportive housing complex under construction in Beaverton, there are no designated affordable housing units either. Houston pointed out that with rents averaging $1,200 per month in Durham, a person would have to make $48,000 annually to properly afford housing.

Houston is asking Uxbridge Council to strike a committee to look at the issues and to consider repurposing town owned properties to create a shelter for those who have no place to live.

Council agreed to address both matters and asked Houston to make a return visit so both sides can share insights.

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