Persistent speculation that London has become a destination for homeless people pushed out of other cities reached the floor of council chambers.
Towards the end of Monday’s city council meeting, Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen asked civic administration if there was truth to stories he’s heard from “very reliable sources” that other municipalities are bussing people to London.
“Organized groups of homeless [people] are coming into London from other areas,” said Van Meerbergen. “Other areas of the province and perhaps beyond.”
“We are not really getting information that this is a coordinated effort from any one municipality,” replied Kevin Dickins, deputy city manager of Social Health and Development.
“It’s not been substantiated anywhere, it’s a rumour,” added Coun. Stephen Turner. “It’s unethical for a municipality to do so. We would not do that, other municipalities would not do that.”
However, Coun. John Fyfe-Millar isn’t so sure.
“Some of those new faces we’re seeing on our streets are coming from other communities,” Fyfe-Millar told CTV News after the meeting.
The downtown councillor said it’s to be expected that people experiencing homelessness in nearby rural communities would be drawn to the services offered in London.
But, “The piece I struggle with is when larger communities tend to send people here in the name of compassion, but without a plan,” he added.
A visit by CTV News to the encampment in Victoria Park found no one who said they’d recently arrived from outside London.
Some people living unsheltered expressed a strong belief that relocations occur, but they could not provide examples.
They suspect that some communities offer relocation to London because they believe there is greater access to food, shelter and support in the city.
Dickins confirmed local services providers are in fact, already stretched to capacity.
He told council that city staff would address the situation if it’s discovered.
“If they indicate they were sent here, we will often look to connect them back to their home community if there are supports,” he explained.
Fyfe-Millar believes there must be better communication between communities to address the crisis on the streets.
“Doing better is working together in a coordinated effort to better serve the individuals that really need that help,” he added.
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