Unaffordable housing puts pressure on women’s shelter in Mississauga


Published May 24, 2024 at 3:27 pm

Peel Shelter Housing Feature 2024

While communities throughout Ontario continue to expand, many people in the province cannot find affordable housing.

For Armagh House, the only sole transitional shelter for women in the Peel region, these limitations are felt by both support workers and clients alike, as living spaces throughout Brampton and Mississauga remain unaffordable.

Armagh House functions outside the jurisdiction of traditional emergency shelter systems, which traditionally function as a short-term housing solution for those in need. Instead, Armagh House operates as a space for recovery and rehabilitation for women who have experienced abuse at home or within shelter care.

For Samiya Kebir, program manager at Armagh House, maneuvering the tightening grip of accessible housing has consumed numerous aspects of her job, making the already isolating task of managing transitional care for at-risk women in the Peel Region even more demanding. 

“It is certainly overwhelming being the only transitional housing support network in the Peel Region. Throughout the GTA, we receive applicants from Halton, Toronto, Durham, York and even Orangeville. Our scope is quite wide, and every time we have a vacancy, we get roughly 70 applicants,” Kebir told insauga.com. 

After an application gets approved, clients (and their families) engage in transitional care, which can last months or even years. However, it’s what comes after the transitional period that makes Kebir dread the stalemate of affordable housing in Ontario. 

“After, say, three to four months, [clients] are faced with the option of going into market rent housing, which is completely unaffordable — especially if they haven’t been working — or they can shelter hop across different short-term shelters across the GTA. In a worst-case scenario, they even potentially return to their abuser,” says Kebir. 

According to Kebir, this lull between transitional care and a ‘potential’ new home is an incredibly vulnerable time for clients. However, Armagh House staff are specifically trained to manage client needs outside of facility care in order to manage potential risk during this period. 

“These women have developed a sense of community after living at Armagh for an extended period, they have become very accustomed to living amongst people they trust. Sometimes it can be a little bit daunting for them, so we provide that support to make that transition as smooth as possible,” says Kebir. 

Beyond operating as an extension of the duty of care, maintaining communication after departure is vital, as domestic violence cases towards women have increased by 30 per cent since the pandemic-era.

This upward trend of domestic violence, combined with the restricted nature of affordable housing in the Peel Region, has created a pressure cooker for social services in the region. As a result, clients now face a potential exodus into municipalities far from the communities they have built, putting greater strain on them and their care workers. 

“When drafting housing applications and looking for market rent options, we always tell the client to cast their net wide and not limit themselves to Peel Region… Because we are seeing that it is becoming so unaffordable. However, people generally want to stay because they have immediate access to their community,” says Kebir. 

As a result, Armagh staff are saddled with two additional layers of post-departure support work. They help clients establish care networks in regions outside of Peel and educate individuals on the real estate realities of Ontario—all while managing client expectations. 

“If you don’t have a safe and sustainable place to live, everything else won’t work. You can have access to therapy, you can be employed, you can have financial literacy but if you don’t have an affordable home, nothing works,” says Kebir. 

As market living continues to be out of reach for Armagh House clients, subsidized housing remains the only viable option. However, since many of these locations are restricted to Toronto-proper, it further displaces those trying to plant roots in Peel and can even set some individuals back years. 

“It’s not the best quality housing, but it is affordable. Sometimes they stay there for five or six years until they can get back on their feet and afford something within the market rent price range,” says Kebir. 

According to Kebir, even if a client gets a priority listing on a subsidized housing unit, the wait time can still be two years.

As for how to ensure that a client acquires an affordable place to live down the line, Kebir stresses that much of it falls on how the public supports care workers like those within Armagh House, as when a care worker leaves due to being overloaded, much of the work to help their clients goes with them.

Or as Kebir puts it,

“When we have less turnover, we have more success.”

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