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District of Muskoka gets boost from Ontario to fight homelessness

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The Ontario government is investing millions to curb the homeless crisis in Muskoka.

In Bracebridge on Tuesday, Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith announced the district would receive just over $2 million in 2023/24 for its homelessness program, a 58 per cent increase over previous years.

The region reports the homeless situation has doubled since 2019, and Muskoka District Chair Jeff Lehman emphasized that growing the supply of affordable housing will be one of the council's top priorities moving forward.

"Not only are there 173 people, I think, on our remain list from the remuneration from a year ago, but they are staying four times as long in shelter," Lehman said.

Last month, the district council adopted a resolution to declare homelessness an emergency.

"The number of emergency and transitional shelter nights has increased by over 600 per cent, and the cost of that sheltering has increased by over 500 per cent," noted Arfona Zwiers, commissioner for the district's community planning services.

With the cost of living at an all-time high, the lack of affordable housing and other social issues at record highs, the district says the province's investment will make a difference in the lives of many.

"We want to help people with the root causes of their homelessness, not just the emergency shelter, but the first priority, of course, must be making sure people have a roof over their heads," Lehman added.

The Ontario government has committed to investing an additional $202 million annually in the province's Homelessness Prevention Program and Indigenous Supporting Housing Program.

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