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NDP raises Khanjin staff's encampment referral in Question Period

Barrie-Innisfil MPP, who also serves as Ontario’s minister of the environment, conservation and parks, says she was unaware staff made the referrals and that her office is 'looking into it'
Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin.

The decision by Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin’s constituency office staff to refer people in need of shelter to a private, for-profit encampment landed under the Queen’s Park microscope this week.

During Question Period April 15, Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky raised the matter that was first reported by InnisfilToday.

“Shocklingly, instead of working to resolve this province’s homelessness crisis, the member for Innisfil has started referring people to this for-profit encampment,” said Gretzky, who also serves as poverty and homelessness reduction critic for the official Opposition NDP. “My question to the premier is this: Is he going to start counting tents as part of their affordable-housing numbers? This for-profit encampment is targeted toward people who are on OW (Ontario Works) or ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) because the programs don’t even cover the cost of rent. This (Progressive) Conservative government has fuelled a housing and affordability crisis and now they seem to be endorsing exploitation.”

Khanjin, who also serves as Ontario’s minister of the environment, conservation and parks, has steadfastly maintained she was unaware staff were making the referrals, and when asked about the issue earlier this month said, “We’re looking into it” and her office is “changing practices” to ensure something similar doesn’t happen again.

With Khanjin sitting a row back on the government benches, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra responded to Gretzky by suggesting Ontario recently made significant investments in homelessness prevention, and accused the New Democrats of being “irrelevant” and “ignoring what the people of the province need.”

“What we are doing across the province is restoring, rehabilitating and renovating our affordable-housing stock,” he said. “You know why? Because we were left with an infrastructure deficit. We will continue to support those who want help. We will leave no one behind. That is our goal, each and every day.”

The property in question is located on the 25th Sideroad in Innisfil. It first came to InnisfilToday’s attention through a tip about a posting on Kijiji titled “HELP for people in Homeless Tent encampment Private Property.”

That advertisement, which appears to have since been removed from the website, was asking for $500, but it didn’t specify whether the amount sought was a flat rate or monthly rent. With that payment came permission for the unsheltered to “set up your tents” on the cottage property.

The site is billed as having a shared kitchen, community fridge, bathroom and hookup to electricity. The description also promotes “job opportunities” and says tenants can walk to the nearby beach.

To apply, prospective tenants needed to provide their full names, some personal information and confirmation they’re receiving OW.

Barrie Homelessness and Housing Justice Network spokesperson Jennifer van Gennip has called the private encampment plan “well-meaning” but “pretty exploitative of people in a very vulnerable position.”

“What we really need from our elected officials are policies that move us toward a realization of housing as a human right with more investments in deeply affordable housing so everyone has a safe and affordable place to call home," said van Gennip.

Chris Simon

About the Author: Chris Simon

Chris Simon is an award-winning journalist who has written for publications throughout Simcoe County and York Region. He is the current Editor of BradfordToday and InnisfilToday and has about two decades of experience in the sector
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