Just two weeks after the first temporary winter shelter opened its doors to Londoners experiencing homelessness, there are early signs of success.
Thirty-two people are now staying inside heated construction trailers converted into modest shelter accommodations in the parking lot of the T-Block building on Elizabeth Street.
“This is amazing, because we’d be on the streets, sleeping on the streets, freezing our butts off,” explains 45-year old Tanya, who has been homeless for five years along with her boyfriend.
“Before we were in here, we were sleeping on the streets. We’re a couple. London has no accommodations for couples,” she says.
In December, city hall launched a $2.3 million emergency response for people living in tents this winter.
It includes constructing two temporary overnight shelters and two daytime coffeehouses to act as drop-in centres.
Now that the first overnight shelter has reached capacity, construction trailers have begun arriving in a parking lot next to Mission Services on York Street.
Manager of Homeless Prevention Craig Cooper says the second site should open in the next two weeks.
“The response has been fantastic. Not just with the uptake of individuals moving into the location, but with donations from the public,” Cooper explains.
Cooper adds that the new shelters serve Londoners with complex needs who struggle to find housing, but already two residents have secured a place to live.
“I’m expecting sometime next week, or the week after that, those folks will be moved into their permanent housing,” he adds.
The Hamilton Road Seniors’ Community Centre held a soft-opening of its daytime coffeehouse in December.
Attendance varies with the weather, but is growing according to the city.
Unexpected construction delays, however, have slowed work on the downtown coffeehouse on Dundas Place.
“We are anticipating to have that up and operational in the next month, or less,” predicts Cooper.
The emergency response program will end in April, by which time Cooper hopes to permanently house as many residents as possible.
Tanya says the shelter has already offered her two rare commodities on the streets, stability and hope.
“It’s great to have a place to be by yourself, have a warm place, get off the streets, and not always experience hell.”