City streets were all but emptied in the spring and early summer months at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, as businesses closed and people throughout Niagara shuttered themselves in their homes.

It was on those surreal and eerily quiet streets of the region’s urban centres that Niagara’s struggle with poverty and homelessness became overwhelmingly obvious, when the only people to see for the most part were those with nowhere to go, said Susan Venditti, the recently retired executive director of Start Me Up Niagara.