Temporary homeless shelter model up for debate as program gets extended London, Ont.

The WISH coalition is looking to keep its pop-up shelter in place as the City extends its end date and proposes alternative locations to tacking high acute homelessness in London, Ont.

The site, set up in a parking lot at York and Colborne streets, was initially intended to be a temporary solution during winter, while shelters experienced reduced capacity because of COVID-19.

During the Community and Protective Services Committee meeting Tuesday, councillors unanimously approved the use of $1.15-million in one-time provincial funding to extend the service to the end of 2021 at an alternative location. Before this decision, the initiative would have ended by June 30th.

Those at the site are among those struggling the most, with issues like current and past trauma, addiction, and also having been homeless for a long period of time.

“For some of these folks, this is their first time being stable, being inside with access to health care,” said Sarah Campbell Co-Lead for Wish to Be Home and Executive Director of Ark Aid Street Mission.

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The Winter Interim Response to Homelessness collation (WISH), runs the York Street location as well as and one other that has since closed.

Now called the WISH to Be Home Project, organizers say it’s important they can stay at their current site or somewhere similar.

“Residents have told us (that) given an option between a hotel and their parking lot, they would choose the parking lot,” said Campbell.

“It has been low barrier, and that’s been a part of their success in staying.”

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She said residents have constantly stayed at the site night overnight, compared to other situations where they would not want to stay more than once.

Due to the hot summer heat and lack of shade, the coalition is open to moving to a more shaded location, but is hoping for a similar option.

Zoning for the York site or a similar location has not been approved and appropriately designed or welcoming lease opportunities to move the site have also not been found, Campbell said in a letter to the City.

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She said civic administration is prosing hotel spaces, which may not be the best option.

“At York and Colborne we have a large community space where we provide meals and activities, structure our day around that, we have community meetings, and you get a strong community feel.”

Campbell said whichever model they do end up with, they will do their best to make it work and keep people housed.

On June 22, the coalition will have the opportunity to present their argument and reasons for staying their current shelter model to councillors later this month.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Ontario study finds people on homeless spectrum hit hard by COVID-19'

Coronavirus: Ontario study finds people on homeless spectrum hit hard by COVID-19

Coronavirus: Ontario study finds people on homeless spectrum hit hard by COVID-19 – Jan 16, 2021

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