City may drop plans to hire ‘system navigator’ to tackle homelessness

ByShannon J. Cortes

Apr 9, 2022

After all, the city may not be paying someone to help homeless people downtown.

Late last year, the board voted to set aside a maximum of $70,000 per year, for the next three years, to help fund the new position.

Downtown Business Improvement Area Association executive director Terry Guiel told advisers in November that his organization was willing to offer $15,000 a year for the three-year pilot project.

His idea was to hire what he calls a “system navigator” to access quick help for people sleeping in storefronts, for example.

The board voted at the end of 2021 to set aside funds to fund the work.

But that wasn’t done yet: the council had also commissioned a report from city staff, due in early 2022, with details such as who would do the hiring. Then the board planned to vote on whether to release the funding.

This new report will be considered by city councilors on Monday, but it does not recommend the city help fund the position; city ​​staff deem it unnecessary.

The city already has three designated customer service officers who regularly deliver outreach on downtown streets and at homeless shelters, the report said.

Additionally, the Ontario government now expects cities to “refocus” so that municipal social service workers are trained to do the kind of work the system navigator was proposed to do (and the city has 43 such customer service workers).

Finally, the report lists 10 local agencies and organizations whose staff deal with outreach to people experiencing homelessness.

“Additional system navigation through the DBIA is not what inner-city homeless people need to solve their homelessness, reduce their addiction or change their behaviors,” the staff report says.

Instead, the report suggests the city continues to work with organizations like the DBIA to better communicate details about services and people already available to help.

Meanwhile, staff note that the council’s original intention was to fund the position – and the council may still want to do so.

In this case, staff say advisers could consider funding the work for a 15-month trial at a cost of $68,375, or funding it for the full three years as requested at a cost of $160,000 (a cost that takes into account the annual budget proposed by the DBIA contribution of $15,000).


Also on Monday evening’s agenda, Peterborough-Kawartha MLA Michelle Ferreri is scheduled to make a traditional visit to councilors to discuss local issues of concern to the federal and municipal governments.

Her visit was on the agenda to speak earlier this year, but she had to postpone.