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Loss of emergency housing benefit will increase homelessness in Ontario, activists say
More vulnerable Ontarians will be pushed into homelessness if Queen's Park axes a $114 million benefit that helps people on welfare pay emergency housing costs, warn social activists and municipalities.
"This benefit is used to keep people housed who are having difficulty for all kinds of reasons," said Jennefer Laidley of the Income Security Advocacy Centre, a provincial legal clinic that supports people on social assistance.
"There is no doubt that homelessness will increase as a result of this move."
Under the Liberal budget approved this week, the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit will end January 2013. The mandatory program, delivered through the welfare system, provides up to $799 for a single person and up to $1,500 for a family. It is available every two years and can be used on a wide variety of housing-related expenses including rent and utility arrears, first and last month's rent, furniture or other household items.
Almost 200,000 singles and families on social assistance rely on the benefit annually.
In its place, the Liberals are allocating $63 million -- about half of what they spent on the benefit last year -- to a new housing and homelessness program to be run by municipalities.
But activists say the cut pre-empts the provincial social assistance review commission's report due in September.