Warming stations, shelters offering safe spaces during pandemic winter
GUELPH -- Wintertime is typically when shelter systems see an increase in those experiencing homelessness looking for a safe space.
According to County of Wellington Social Services, this has only been compounded by the pandemic.
Lori Richer, the Housing Stability Manager for the County of Wellington Social Services, said they typically see 53 people a night. During the pandemic, it's increased to 72 a night.
“We've increased our hours by more than 100 per cent in this last year to accommodate people who just don't have a place to go. We’ve doubled our meal program," said Kevin Coghill, Executive Director and Pastor for the Royal City Mission.
With COVID-19 outbreaks shutting down or severely limiting operations at other shelters in the area, Royal City Mission is the only warming centre open during the day providing a meal service at lunch and dinner.
The Drop In Centre, in downtown Guelph, takes over at 8 p.m. with beds available.
The team at Royal City Mission says it's working closely with the Drop In Centre to help give the most vulnerable in our community a warm place to stay and a place to find a meal.
“It’s a low barrier first come, first serve location for people to come. And then we also have the Loyola House temporary shelter accommodation program and it has 37 bed and is staffed 24/7,” said Gale Hoekstra, the Executive Director for the Drop In Centre.
According to Hoekstra, they haven't reached capacity at either location yet, but with a blast of cold weather on the way this weekend they expect to see numbers increase.
County Social Services is working to spread out one-time funding received during the pandemic.
“We recently hired a housing locator to start engaging landlords to be able to find units to be able to move people quickly out of homelessness. We were also a part of the supportive housing proposal for the drop in, for grace gardens, they've applied for the rapid housing initiative," said Richer.