The United Counties of Prescott and Russell is one of three communities in Ontario that will be part of a new pilot project aimed at helping people who are fleeing domestic violence find a place to live.

The Portable Housing Benefit Pilot will provide provincial funding to subsidize the rent of victims of domestic violence. Prescott and Russell has been awarded $120,000 in each 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The program will give victims of family violence an option besides social housing, said Counties Social Services Director Anne Comtois-Lalonde. In the past, victims of domestic violence “would put in a request for social housing and sometimes they would need to move into one of our units, if units were available, whereas now, they could be living in Casselman, where they don’t have any public housing that’s available for families.” The counties could subsidize part of the person’s rent in a private apartment, she said. People could be referred to the United Counties by organizations like Maison Interlude in Hawkesbury.

The Ministry of Housing says it is spending about $17 million on portable housing benefit pilot projects in Ontario, which it says will “eventually help up to $3,000 survivors.”

This is the second provincially-funded project aimed at mitigating the effects of domestic violence in Prescott Russell announced so far this summer. In July, it was announced that the province would give $40,000 to Maison Interlude to look into public transportation options in Prescott and Russell. The aim of that project is to research what transportation options already exist, such as the volunteer drivers retained by Valoris, Victims Services, and other organizations, and see if its possible to create a more structured system of public transportation. The application for that grant, which was supported by the United Counties and Carefor, highlighted the logistical challenges faced by women who want to escape from abusive situations: “We are witnesses…to women who return to their violent partner because they that way they have access to a car, a house, resources they cannot access alone,” it said. That funding came from the “Rural Realities Fund” of the Ministry of Community and Social Services.