The Executive Director of Grace Sparkes House in Marystown says community-based housing is a great concept, but governments need to listen to those on the ground in the community to make it work.

Lisa Slaney says they currently have six units that are occupied, but they could have 10 more buildings and still be looking for more spaces.

She told VOCM Open Line with Paddy Daly that in the 32 years she’s been working in the community sector, things have gotten far worse.

Slaney says there are a variety of reasons why some people are hard to house, whether it be due to addictions, a history of not paying rent or damages caused in the past.

Slaney says they’re doing their best to provide help to those who need a place to stay whether they’re escaping abuse, just out of jail or struggling with mental health or addictions. She says community housing won’t work if the powers that be don’t provide the supports needed.

Slaney says they have a woman who has not paid her rent since December, “but we’re not making her homeless.” That said, she wants to know where they’re getting the money to pay their $8,000 a month in rent, or the property taxes on the units, or the water and sewer services. “We don’t have the resources to do communitybased housing, not-for-profit housing, unless people start listening to what the issues are.”

She believes there should be a separate department in government that deals solely with housing, to take some of the pressure off of NL Housing.

Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development and the minister responsible for NL Housing says government is committed to creating housing solutions across the province.

Paul Pike addressed questions around some of the hundreds of government housing units currently vacant in NL. He says there are 213 people waiting for completion of work underway on units, many of whom have already received their moving dates.

That, he says, represents less than four per cent of the province’s housing portfolio. Another 143 units require what he calls “major repairs,” with 68 scheduled to be completed in three to 12 months.

Twenty units are in areas with “no demand” with another 90 units recently sold for development into rental units. Some have questioned what that means, but Pike assures that government will continue to subsidize rents for those who qualify.

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