In February 2023, the Niagara Region declared a State of Emergency for Homelessness, Mental Health and Opioid Addiction recognizing that Niagara is in serious need of more Affordable Housing and Mental Health support for the residents of our community.

Now that we are in this situation, there are many questions about what affordable housing is. Housing is considered to be aff­ordable when a household spends less than 30% of its pre-tax income on adequate shelter. Households that spend more than 30% of their income on shelter are deemed to be in core housing need and those that spend 50% or more on shelter are in severe housing need. In Niagara, there are currently 25,000+ families in core housing need1, and over 10,000 households are on the Centralized Housing waitlist for subsidized housing representing approx. 18,000 to 19,000 individuals2 with an average wait time of 6.5 years for a subsidized 2-bedroom unit3

Unfortunately, this isn’t something that happened overnight.  It’s been an issue for years however, more recently the issue has escalated creating the crisis we are currently in. There are multiple triggers that heart of this issue including but not limited to: “low supply of rental stock, steep increases in housing prices, forecasted population growth, migration of population from the GTA to Niagara, preferences for short-term vacation rentals, renovictions, the decades-long waitlist for social housing, the gig economy, and the unmet needs of vulnerable groups, all contribute to the affordable housing crisis in Niagara.”4

Other factors affecting the housing crisis are: Increase in Immigration; NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard); Spiking Inflation; Soaring Interest rates; Supply vs Demand issues; Fallout from the COVID-19 Pandemic; Mental health decline due to the pandemic, as well as the fact that affordable housing just isn’t lucrative enough to builders and developers.

With so many issues affecting our society at the same time, you can see why a State of Emergency was declared. According to Lori Beech, Executive Director of Bethlehem Housing and Support Services, “homelessness and affordable housing are complex issues that require multi-faceted strategies and innovative solutions created and delivered through multi-sector community-based partnerships.”

One organization in Niagara that’s helping tackle the crisis is Bethlehem Housing and Support Services (BHSS). In partnership with the community, BHSS has been providing affordable housing and services to support the personal growth of individuals and families across Niagara for over 35 years. BHSS is the only organization in Niagara offering supportive transitional and permanent affordable housing with supports for men, women and their children, with a focus on families who are homeless due to issues with poverty, physical disability, mental health, domestic violence and family breakdown. Since 1988, BHSS has helped more than 2,500 families stabilize their lives by providing housing and support services to help them break the cycle of homelessness and gain the confidence, skills and health to remain securely housed. Providing affordable housing is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to enhancing and sustaining the dignity and quality of life for those in need in our community, regardless of their age - from infants to seniors. “Providing permanent affordable housing with support is a best practice. It’s proven effective in preventing housing loss, evictions, and homelessness” states Lori.

BHSS takes a holistic approach to their offerings by providing Transitional Supportive Housing, Permanent Affordable Supportive Housing, full-time Community Support Workers to address the social challenges faced by their residents, Community Outreach - ongoing Community Support Workers available to assist people living in the community, EarlyOn Centre - helping Niagara parents and children through interactive, educational activities as well as an After School Club.

In 2022 alone, BHSS had 1,550 people participate in their Programs and Support Services, 155 people were served through their Community Outreach program, 1,800 child visits to their EarlyOn Centre, 920 calls of inquiry to their Central Intake and since 1988 has housed over 2,500 families in Niagara.

For organizations like Bethlehem Housing and Support Services, fundraising is crucial since there is minimal Government funding available for the specific programs they provide. However, with your help, BHSS can continue to provide Niagara’s most vulnerable with the essential supports needed to maintain their housing stability, quality of life, prevent evictions and homelessness. If you would like more information on how you can help, please visit, or you can make an online donation by visiting 




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2 – Niagara Region: A Home For All – Niagara’s Updated Housing and Homelessness Action Plan June 2023

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4 - Looking Ahead and Looking Up: Affordable Housing in Niagara by Joanne Heritz and Niagara Community Observatory


Lori Beech, Executive Director, Bethlehem Housing and Support Services
Bringing more than 25 years in nonprofit leadership in diverse social sectors, Lori is known for her tireless commitment to championing successful housing and homelessness initiatives.




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