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Kingston City Council votes to move forward on inclusion, compensation of unhoused population in policy making

Kingston City Council members votes unanimously in favour of a motion to direct City Staff to create and present a report and recommendations back to Council in order to “improve the meaningful inclusion, and compensated participation of people who are homeless and/or precariously housed and/or have lived experience with homelessness or housing precarity, on all relevant City working groups, task forces, and committees.” The vote took place during the Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2021 meeting of Council.

In a Kingston City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2021, which was held virtually, Councillor Jeff McLaren moved a motion regarding the inclusion of insights from people with lived experiences of homelessness into policy decisions. Councillor Robert Kiley seconded the motion. 

The motion also sheds light on the structural barriers that precariously housed or homeless people face, such as inadequate housing, transportation, and income, limiting their meaningful participation in policy formation that concerns them. 

At the beginning of the meeting, Alanna Jane and Ishitia Aggarwal, Queen’s University’s third-year medical students, presented on behalf of Municipal Day of Action. The advocacy group consists of 18 medical students from Queen’s. This group is advocating for the significant involvement of the affected population, the end-users in housing and homelessness policy formation in Kingston.

One of the formats introduced by the group concerning the motion was that City Staff should document the protocols for meaningful, compensated inclusion of people who have lived a homeless experience on all relevant City working groups, task forces, and funding boards. The priority in this approach should be women and indigenous people who are over-represented among the homeless population in Kingston. 

As a group of medical students, Municipal Day of Action is concerned with the local homelessness issue and associated health implications that come with it, such as chronic illness, mental illness, and substance abuse issues. 

“So when we come to you today, asking for your support on the proposed motion of helping give a voice to the homeless and precariously housed, while we recognize and acknowledge the work that City Council and various committees have already done on this topic, we have identified an existing gap surrounding the compensated inclusion of folks with lived experience on City committees and working groups,” said Jane.

“[At] policy-level decisions that impact large numbers of people, [it’s important] to give them a platform [so that] the more representative our solutions become. And I think that’s what we’re hoping to accomplish, not only in this motion, but also in our careers,” said Aggarwal. 

A motion also presented a recommendation that includes providing material support, compensation, stipends, and transportation support to minimize the power imbalances, promote inclusion. and build trust with people affected by policy outcomes. Therefore, the motion is adamant about City Staff  producing a report containing recommendations to improve the meaningful inclusion and compensated participation of the homeless, precariously-housed and those who have lived experience with homelessness or housing precarity on all relevant City working groups, task forces, and committees. Furthermore, that report would also include recommendations on how the City will prioritize individuals in Kingston’s homeless population, specifically women and Indigenous Peoples, through inclusive and targeted outreach to these communities.

Council voted unanimously in favour of the new motion, despite some concerns and objections, including that regarding whether or not financial compensation for serving on a Board or Committee could lead to corruption. McLaren expressed that, since those serving on the Police Services and Public Health Boards already receive a stipend, saying that if it’s already happening for people who are well-off, he doesn’t see why it would amount to corruption when it’s happening for people who are not well-off. This prompted nods of agreement from Councillors Lisa Osanic and Bridget Doherty, and emphatic head shaking in disapproval from Councillor Wayne Hill.

With Staff now directed to create the report as outlined above, that report is to be presented in the 4th quarter of 2021.

The entirety of the Kingston City Council meeting held on Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2021 — much of which involved discussion around housing and homelessness — can be viewed on the City of Kingston YouTube Channel.

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