In 2012, the Ontario government eliminated the provincial Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB), choosing instead (after major arm-twisting) to give money directly to cities and municipalities to provide the same service. Only one problem: they didn’t give the same amount of money. Niagara Region received 48% of what was previously provided under the CSUMB funding. This money is now part of Niagara’s Housing Stability Fund (HSF) and is designed to address financial challenges the homeless and those at risk of homelessness face. People on the Ontario Disabilities Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW) can access this fund to help them get off the street or to help them from becoming homeless. In 2011, 11,200 Niagara households called upon the CSUMB for financial assistance.
For the homeless, the HSF can help eligible recipients with last month’s rent, moving costs and the costs associated with setting up a household like purchasing furniture and household items. For those in precarious housing situations who are at risk of being evicted or having their utilities cut off, the HSF may also be applied toward outstanding rent or utility payments. As many who work in the homelessness and poverty reduction field know, in low-income situations there is often little or no financial buffer available to deal with emergency situations. In such cases, the Housing Stabilization Fund can make the difference between becoming homeless and remaining housed after an emergency.
Programs like the HSF are important for homeless people who are trying to get off the street and keeping people from becoming homeless in the first place. The challenges low-income earners face are significant and one emergency can cause a cascading financial effect resulting in homelessness if it weren’t for programs like the HSF. The Salvation Army and other organizations in the homelessness and poverty reduction field help their clients access the HSF whenever possible to smooth the transition from homelessness to housed.
Information about the Housing Stability Fund in Niagara is not really available online. If you are on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disabilities Support Program, you can call your case worker to find out more information and to see if you are eligible for the fund.