Date: November 21, 2022
Subject: 15 sleeping cabins with auxiliary buildings and wraparound services
PURPOSE OF THIS REPORT
- To establish the ability of PATH (Peterborough Action for Tiny Homes) to expediently coordinate their Phase One project of 15 sleeping cabins plus auxiliary buildings and services as a pilot program to help stabilize the lives of 15 chronically unhoused citizens.
- To promote to Council and others the importance of “community” in dealing with multiple challenges and trauma which leads to homelessness and explain how the PATH project will help create this environment needed for life stabilization.
To meet the above goals, we are specifically requesting that council approve the following recommendations:
- Support, in principle, a Temporary Use By-Law and potential Site Plan Exemption application to allow PATH to expediently use the land at the west end of the 834 Park St. property for the pilot project to house up to 30 chronically homeless individuals with sleeping cabins and supportive buildings to include sanitary and food services with support services provided by E. Fry through a MOU with PATH.
- Approval to waive the application and development fees for the processing of the above applications to establish the proposed use on a temporary basis.
- Direction to staff to expedite the review of the above applications by processing a “preconsultation” while concurrently reviewing the application and by putting the applications at the “top of the queue” by bringing the application forward to the first possible public meeting and council date for a decision after submission. This will enable the establishment of the pilot project this winter, should the applications ultimately be approved.
- The allocation of $100,000 for start-up funding immediately for Winter 2022/23.
The PATH project is centred on the healing power of living within a caring community as a core principle to helping solve the homelessness crisis in Peterborough. The advantage of transitional housing, such as the cluster of sleeping cabins PATH is currently proposing, is not only financial: the residents also become stabilized with appropriate supports and become ready to make more healthy choices.
There is no quick fix for a person living with multiple challenges and trauma. However, transitioning to a community-supported setting with coordinated access to downtown services and onsite wrap around services (through onsite professional staff and trained volunteers), as is proposed, has been identified as a key way to help assist in long term life stabilization. This includes creating social enterprises with work opportunities in the community. This is the vision that PATH is committed to and is seeking support for.
PATH PROJECT SPECIFICS
This report and these requests to enable the establishment Phase One: Up to 30 sleeping cabins with auxiliary buildings to provide portable servicing (washrooms, eating space, etc.), meetings spaces, and storage. We expect to begin with ten cabins and the auxiliary buildings, and to add more cabins as they become available (likely 15 cabins at most during this Winter 22-23 season).
This pilot project is intended to stabilize lives and give space to the transformative possibilities of living-in-community, while we proceed with determining the most appropriate location and processes for establishing Phase Two: a village of about 50 tiny homes. Residents in the Phase One community may decide to transition to Phase Two, once established.
After reviewing numerous candidate sites (both municipal and privately owned) in consultation with planning professional volunteering for PATH, we are of the opinion that 834 Park Street represents the most viable site option for obtaining approvals quickly, while also accomplishing the project vision such as access to downtown services and integration in the community.
Our intent is therefore to undertake appropriate planning approvals to establish the use on a temporary basis on this site, via a temporary use by-law and a site plan exemption application, to be submitted with a supporting Planning Justification Report and Record of Site Condition.
PATH has retained a professional planning firm, EcoVue Consulting, to assist with the applications. While we have requested support in principle for these applications, we recognize that there is a formal planning approvals process that must be undertaken before these can be approved.
As such, we are also requesting that the application fees be waived and the applications be expedited as noted above to avoid further delays.
BUDGET & FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
PATH and the Brock Mission have recently finalized the terms of an interim financial partnership. PATH fundraising aims to cover the deficit for the first year’s operational budget through private donations.
A three-year budget for the PATH project:
Winter 2022/23 Operating Cost is estimated to be $207,926. Residents will pay their housing allowance as a fee for being in this program. This leaves $204,306 in Expenses over Revenue following the donation of materials for the Capital construction of the cabins as noted.
With the City’s contribution of $100,000 as recommended above, PATH is committed to fundraising $104,306 to fund this Winter 2022/23 pilot project.
PATH’S ORGANIZATION AND ASSETS
PATH is incorporated, with a Board of five community members, a Steering Committee of seven, and active Working Groups. PATH currently has approximately $25,000 in its own account, donations made in the absence of charitable receipts.
Pending PATH’s acquisition of charitable status our relationship with Brock Mission enhances our ability to do major fundraising. Peterborough is generally aware of the model sleeping cabin which was
hosted for eight weeks around the city; nine more cabins are ready to be assembled onsite, with another five anticipated once a site is guaranteed.
PATH is concluding an agreement, through an MOU with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Peterborough to provide the operational support, including coordination of wrapround services provided by appropriate community agencies, and coordination of the site. PATH will work with Elizabeth Fry to coordinate the selection process, set rules and commitments for residents and staff, and supervise daily operations.
Peterborough Social Services Homelessness Program (SSHP) has committed to providing an outreach worker for approximately 5 hours per week on-site. SSHP will provide training on Peterborough’s Coordinated Access System and By Name List, training for Bridges out of Poverty, and will liaise with PATH volunteers regarding homelessness issues.
PATH has a list of more than 300 volunteers, including a growing number of people with experience living on the street.
A petition started by a PATH supporter: “We, the undersigned, urge City Council to work with Peterborough Action for Tiny Homes (PATH) to expedite the establishment of sleeping cabins before the winter of 2022/23.” now has more than 1063 signatures.
CONSULTATIONS AND RESPONSES – from PEOPLE WITH LIVED EXPERIENCE OF HOMELESSNESS (PWLE):
PATH circulated a questionnaire, garnering written responses from 46 unhoused people. Most expanded their advice during in-person further discussions.
Summary of the replies
More than half stress the need for a safe place to lie down at night. Many inquire about the rules and regulations that they will have to abide by in the community. As these commitments have not yet been finalized, we can say that they will include an agreement to keep the peace and to respect others in the community. Most respondents are looking to live in a community where people respect each other. Many express a desire to live among others who are trying to better themselves. Many respondents ask about the selection process and are aware of the challenges this presents.
Many are concerned by the approaching cold weather.
Many raise concerns about washrooms and showers. We assure them of access to these facilities (though in Phase One, winter 2022/23, showers may have to be offered offsite)
The acceptance of the project by the wider community around them is also a concern. THAT reponds that if we build a community that is well maintained and respectful of the community around it, then we will earn the respect of that community.
PWLE also ask about access to the community supports they require, (meals, food banks, etc.)
Would you be interested in a place like this. Why or why not? Among the replies: “It was very cold last winter, can’t do it again.”
“Have been homeless for 4 of the last 5 years.”
“Would be a good place for a fresh start.”
“It would be a place to live and it gets you off the streets.”
“We ALL need something AFFORDABLE for the homeless especially where they/I will be able to be sheltered without losing their bed like with shelters curfews making it difficult for people”
“It is very hard to get a landlord to look at someone coming from the streets as a potential tenant”
If you lived here who would you like as a neighbour? Among the replies:
“Someone who shares the same goals as me.”
“Someone you can trust and someone that won’t steal your stuff.”
“Anyone who is respectful and genuinely in need. I don’t judge…we all bleed red.” “An ideal neighbour would be anyone who is trying to better themselves.”
What will be the biggest challenges for this project? Among the replies:
“Time and money and the Cost”
“Meeting new friends, more like minded people, and building a new community.” “A place to put the cabins”
“Building, Zoning Laws, Landlords who have negative dealings w tenants, lack of ability to smoke indoors, funding needs to be directly handled by people w money smarts as to distribute & stock the funds until spent on this project. Non-judgmental discussions w homeless as they have lots to say about this w someone/s they trust.”
Concerning Indigenous people experiencing homelessness:
In our meetings with unhoused people, we note anecdotally the overrepresentation of Indigenous people similar to what is reported in the United Way’s Point in Time count: “Over one quarter (27% or 48 people) of survey participants identified as having an Indigenous identity or ancestry. By comparison, people with Indigenous identities account for 4% of the population of the City of Peterborough. The over-representation of Indigenous people experiencing homelessness is consistent with communities across Canada. In the 2018 coordinated PiT count, 30% of participants nationally identified as Indigenous.”
We also note the enthusiasm expressed for our project by people identifying as Indigenous, including a desire to build a similar project near Curve Lake. We have not prioritized following up on these contacts, but they remain part of our ongoing intention and work.
GOVERNANCE AND OPERATIONS OF THE CLUSTER OF SLEEPING CABINS
PATH has learned from other communities. From Kingston: Staff report (Report Number 21-279 November 16, 2021)
“Based on staff ’s review of other sleeping cabin initiatives, successful programs are supported by a lead agency or a partnership of agencies to plan, administer, and operate the facility. This administrative oversight is responsible for ensuring safe and acceptable operations and conducts outreach to connect program participants to resources and support programs. The role of the lead agency is to ensure the project is safe for participants while mitigating off-site impacts and providing connections to necessary health and social services.”
The governance of the PATH community will be through a partnership between E. Fry, whic takes on daily operations, the residents, and PATH. Trained staff will be available onsite 24/7. The Community First model (see Community First, Austin Texas) includes about one in ten residents who were not formerly unhoused but who have training and skills and choose to live onsite. We are exploring adding such embedded help to the 24/7 onsite staff. All concerned will sign on to commitments of respect, keeping the peace, maintenance of the grounds, garbage pick-up, preparation and taking shifts in overnight security. There are plans for a large garden and other social enterprises when weather permits.
In this initial phase of the community, meals will be brought into the site by outside volunteers.
In the longer run, the intention is to shift much of daily living chores to the residents, and transfer much of the onsite decision-making and maintenance to an advisory committee of PWLE who will report to the Board.
Our operational partner, the Elizabeth Fry Society, will be responsible for helping the residents navigate all the services presently offered to the PATH residents. Staff will coordinate service providers and volunteers coming on-site. Residents will have signed a Community Agreement and know that their continued residency depends to some extent on keeping the peace and working within community guidelines. PATH and E. Fry, with advice and support from the residents, will implement their plan for crisis management and issues de-escalation. A working group from PATH will always be available to communicate both with the site and with the neighbourhood to encourage community connections.
Fr Leo Coughlin, spiritual ambassador
Chair: Patricia Mary Campbell
Recording Secretary: Sheila Patricia Nabigon-Howlett
Treasurer: Margaret Laura Sumadh
Director #1: Susan Mary Gontier
Director #2: Margaret Selena Slavin
Steering Committee Members:
Rev. Scott Couper
Project Manager: Keith Dalton, P.Eng. Keith Dalton Construction
A. COMMUNITY SUPPORT OVERVIEW
PATH is not acting alone in the establishment of this tiny home community in Peterborough. Since its inception, PATH has built a network of support among diverse groups and organizations.
In addition to basic health and hygiene requirements such as washrooms, bathing, and laundry and kitchen facilities and/or food service programs, sleeping cabin projects need to include social services to support individuals transitioning to housing stability. Formalized sleeping cabin programs include mobile social service supports such as mental health counselling and health care, skills development, housing search resources, addictions treatment and harm reduction, among other necessary supports.
Support from local Peterborough businesses:
Cleary Homes has given significant support, including providing a space for the building of the first cabin. Cleary Homes also donated services of a driver.
Duane Cummiskey Construction Inc donated use of a trailer to carry that cabin on the Roving Cabin tour of September and October, 2022. David McGee, owner of Evergreen Leasing, encouraged PATH and other groups concerned about homelessness with an offer of a free lease to the use of his land.
Among many local businesses who have offered advice are Paul Dietrich of Dietrich Homes, Peter Duffus, Managing Partner of Future Acceptance Corp., Graham Hart, formerly of CHEX-TV, follows our progress. Keith Dalton Construction coordinates building crews and much else. We have received pledges of support from the business community including Dynacast, J Martin Roofing, Doyle Tree Service, DM Wills and Associates, Lakefield Timber Mart, and substantial contributions from Merrett Home Hardware and other suppliers in the form of discounted material prices. This in addition to pledges from Rotary, and Lion’s Club.
Social Service agencies, faith groups, Trent and Fleming:
At the invitation of Peterborough Drug Strategy, we presented to: Peterborough Public Health, PARN, FourCast, Peterborough. Police Service, OPP, Peterborough Social Services, John Howard Society, Canadian Mental Health Association HKPR, PRHC, Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre, Elizabeth Fry Society, Emmanuel United Church Outreach Committee St. Margaret’s Guild of St. John’s Anglican Church, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) of Peterborough, Fr Leo Coughlin’s online congregation, Brock Mission Walk-in Clinic, Brooke Erickson of the YES shelter, Susan Zambonin of Habitat for Humanity, Whitepath Consulting, The Mount Community Centre and Trent Community Research Centre.
One City Peterborough continues to offer support with training volunteers and assists PATH, through their outreach work with people experiencing homelessness, to stay connected to the wants and needs of people this project will serve.
Peterborough Police Service will support the PATH community to provide a safe, secure space for residents, and will provide in-kind resources, sharing knowledge and advice regarding best practices related to security and site planning.
It takes a community to transition someone out of homelessness. PATH continues to reach out to community agencies and key stakeholders to incorporate them into the operational model of this project.
B. CONTACTS WITH OTHER SIMILAR COMMUNITIES
PATH has developed strong, supportive connections with other communities in various stages of development of similar tiny homes projects. These include:
Our Livable Solutions – Kingston—This project was an early inspiration, as their vision of beginning small with a few sleeping cabins was similar to our own. They lent us their model cabin in the fall of 2021 for a ten-day tour in Peterborough. We consult often. https://www.ourlivable.solutions/
H.A.T.S. – Hamilton– We have consulted with one another in depth and we keep in touch. https://hamiltontinyshelters.ca/
12 Neighbours – Fredericton, N.B. This village of tiny homes is an inspiration for our Phase Two vision. Members and supporters of PATH have visited there on at least 4 occasions, and their prime organizer follows our Facebook page and is available for advice. https://www.12neighbours.com/
Austin TX Loaves and Fishes. The Community First village which is growing into a peaceful city: This was our initial inspiration and we continue to follow their progress and to show their documentary. We have consulted several times with the filmmaker and with the founder of this community. https://mlf.org/community-first/
Northumberland, Oshawa, Duncan BC, Woodstock – We have consulted or have other connections with these projects.
C. WHY ARE SLEEPING CABINS AN OPTION IN RESOLVING HOMELESSNESS?
Homelessness is a result of the housing crisis, which is a result of insufficient bricks and mortar but also insufficient sense of housing as a human right. When house prices and rental costs become unaffordable, we find stigma attached to those citizens who are forced out onto the streets, rather than a societal understanding that we urgently need better policies.
PATH wholeheartedly endorses the efforts on the part of Peterborough to create more housing for low- income citizens. Programs where a group buys or rents an existing house and offers wraparound services to tenants who have been formerly unhoused are respectful and effective options.
Temporary measures such as use of motel rooms and shelters are also necessary, but these are not homes. A home is accessible 24/7 and is private, safe and secure. Belongings can be stored there safely. A shelter offers a place to sleep but is not always secure. It is not a place where one can go home to take a nap or have a friend come in for private conversation.
Without the added support of “community,” even a lockable motel room can become a place of isolation or even danger. It depends on who else is outside of the door.
The advantage of a sleeping cabins cluster or of a tiny home village, is that the resident has a sense of belonging and a reason to get up in the morning. The neighbours outside of the door will be the same people who were there yesterday. There are communal commitments ahead that shape the day. The resident transitions through the experience of finally having a bed and security, to being able to imagine next steps.
Our project will include a large garden, a retail outlet to sell or give away vegetables and artwork and other items created by residents, social enterprises which will depend on the interest of residents and involvement from local individuals and businesses. One auxiliary building (this may be a mobile unit) will include a private space for counselling services.
Health care providers and other services have indicated to us that they welcome a centralized location where they can meet their clients, and possibly find some ability to expand their services.
A community of sleeping cabins in a community format and with trained staff on site is far from the only option to respond to homelessness, but it is effective for some individuals who do not do well in other situations.
The “ghetto” objection:
But are we not creating another ghetto? It is a valid concern not to place low- income citizens all in one location. However, a sleeping cabins cluster or an eventual tiny homes village will act as transitional choices for some of the chronically unhoused. The tiny home can be a first step toward living in the wider community, or it may become a permanent place where one feels useful and cared about.
As these communities grow in size and number, and as their activities integrate with other options through work and employment inside and outside the tiny homes community, the individual feels empowered to make healthy choices. Some people will move on, as we do from wartime houses or downtown apartments. Others choose to stay near old friends, in a community which will be visited on a daily basis by outside supports and also by friendships or alliances generated from the inside.
Social enterprises will engender a sense of self-worth and create an ongoing close connection with local businesses and artisan outlets. Volunteers will assist with transportation to appointments and events.
The PATH retail outlet will not only provide income to some residents but also attract connections with interested customers. We do not see these small PATH communities as being any more of a ‘ghetto’ than many or most other neighbourhoods.
But what about Peterborough’s commitment to increasing density—to building up instead of out? Are we building a tiny sprawl? It is true that the small structures do not ordinarily have adjoining walls. Part of the healing nature of these structures, particularly from a mental-health point of view, is that the resident is secure inside his or her own private space, at a small but definite distance from all other neighbours. However, the living space in a cabin or even a tiny home is so much less than traditional houses or apartments that environmentalists promote them as an admirable and sustainable option. See: Climate Caucus working group Buildings webinar on tiny homes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnWSmGUhBI4
Small discrete structures are not the only tool in the toolbox to approach the crisis of homelessness, but they are an effective tool and it is one which we do not yet have in place. PATH wants to change that.
Mental Health and Addiction Concerns:
Based on homelessness system statistics and anecdotal evidence from local housing and homelessness service providers, people experiencing homelessness with addiction and mental health challenges are an increasing component of the homeless population. The United Way’s 2021 point-in-time count of homelessness found 78% of respondents self-identified as having a substance use issue and 61% of respondents self-identified as having mental health
complications. It is important that projects intended to accommodate community members experiencing homelessness include the necessary social and health care supports.
PATH has spoken with Cooperators’ Insurance, who insure similar projects. Once the land is secured, PATH will purchase insurance.
D. HISTORY AND BACKGROUND OF THE PATH INITIATIVE
The Peterborough Action for Tiny Homes (PATH) initiative has grown from a community crisis situation. With rising rents and decreasing rental supply, homeless shelters at full capacity and the opioid crisis, the numbers of people living rough in our community have risen alarmingly. The United Way reports a 350% increase over a one-year period in the number of people living outdoors, and a 45% increase in those experiencing chronic homelessness. (p. 18, UW PIT report for 2021.)
Tent encampments keep springing up and are dismantled by police and bylaw enforcement. In 2019, the City faced a public encampment in Victoria Park, drawing awareness to this crisis.
One local homelessness advocate began researching options for housing and reached out to other Ontario cities and municipalities to learn from their combined experience with tiny homes. The documentary “Community First: a home for the homeless” was brought to Peterborough. As of April, 2021, the group which was to become PATH began showing the film to community groups. “This innovative model that Community First Village has created has transformed the lives of our homeless neighbours, helping them heal from the ravages of life on the streets, allowing them to rediscover a purpose in their lives.” (Alan Graham, CEO of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Austin, Texas).
Sleeping cabins are a temporary and transitional form of housing which PATH will use in the future for emergency housing. Our main intention is not sleeping cabins but a village of self-sufficient tiny homes.
The vision struck a chord with other community advocates including Father Leo Coughlin, who pledged financial support and leadership. Several individuals joined in, and in September 2021, they met for the first time and named themselves PATH. An executive was appointed.
PATH incorporated on July 6, 2022 and began an application for charitable status.
Grace United Church built the first sleeping cabin, which toured in the Peterborough area throughout September and October of 2022.
The Building Working Group, headed by engineer Keith Dalton and funded temporarily by a personal line of credit from a supporter, coordinated the building of 9 more cabins in modular format, which are now ready to be assembled on site.
The Board meets as needed. It met to confirm its own legal existence and will meet to approve changes in bank matters or changes to the Board. It also will minute voting rights in Steering Committee members. The Steering Committee is increasingly open to participation, but only those appointed by the Board have voting rights.
E. WORKING GROUPS
- The Relationships Working Group: develops and maintains an advisory committee of PWLE. Makes sure that all volunteers are trained in “trauma informed” care.
- The Communications Working Group manages and promotes the website, all forms of media including social media and arranges for speakers.
- The Fundraising Working Group coordinates fundraising, from bake-sales to in-kind donations, from individual donors to grant-application writing.
- Safety, Wellness and Security Working Group takes in coordination of professional and volunteer services for the residents as well as making food and organizing food delivery, social gatherings like music events or simply socializing. Social enterprises, with opportunities for training and employment, will be encouraged from the start.
Letters of Support
Provided by the 360 Clinic, CMHA, Dalton Construction, Dr. Beaudoin, Father Toby Collins, FourCAST, Lee Anne Quinn, the Rotary Club, the Brain Injury Association, Deacon Bill Radigan, Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, Nicole McLeod, PARN, PDLC and Peterborough Police.