New city rules force Men’s Mission, Center of Hope to cut 100 beds

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A major change in the way London tackles homelessness will force two of London’s largest shelters to halve their number of beds by April 1.

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By then, the city-funded shelters will only be able to have a maximum of 50 beds, which means more than 100 people in the two shelters will now have to find new housing over the next six months.

“It’s hard to say what everything will look like in the end,” said Jon De Actis, executive director of the Salvation Army’s 107-bed Hope Center on Tuesday.

“Are there enough shelters for everyone or not, I don’t know. But we will continue to work with the city and stand up for our customers, residents and those who are struggling and see what we come up with. “

“It also has a significant impact on us,” said Peter Rozeluk, Executive Director of Mission Services London.

The organization runs the 111-bed men’s mission and the Rotholme family shelter of 20 families who may also be affected.

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“If we welcome large families there, we certainly won’t be able to provide emergency shelter to as many families as in the past,” Rozeluk said.

“On the one hand, this is concerning as there appears to be a huge reduction in the number of shelter beds in the system, but there may be other organizations that wish to provide emergency shelter beds. I don’t think we will know what the impact is until the RFP (Request for Proposal) process is completed and closed, ”he said.

Homelessness agencies learned of the change in September, when the city issued a three-part Request for Proposal (RFP) to provide emergency shelter, housing stability and outreach services for the next three years. Organizations can apply for funding to provide any or all of the three services.

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The PD criteria for emergency shelters call for a new maximum of 50 beds per shelter.

Salvation Army Center of Hope on Bathurst Street.  (Mike Hensen / The London Free Press)
Salvation Army Center of Hope on Bathurst Street. (Mike Hensen / The London Free Press)

But it is not yet clear whether there will be an overall reduction in accommodation beds in the city, said Kevin Dickins, general manager of city hall housing.

“I don’t know who will apply and what I’m going to see. We could ask other people to come to the table with a plan of what a shelter space is and what it looks like, ”he said. “We know without a doubt that this is going to have an impact on organizations, and some more directly than others.”

The idea of ​​reducing shelter beds under what is called the Housing First model is not new, and the idea of ​​smaller shelters surfaced during consultation with organizations before. releasing the city’s RFP, Dickins said.

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The Housing First model, adopted by the city several years ago, envisions placing people in their own homes with social services and medical support, rather than placing them in shelters.

“Now that you come to us, we try to reconnect you to natural supports if they exist, we try to provide you with all the enveloping supports you need. And then we try to distract you from the shelter, ”Dickins said.

But the Housing First model needs more funding for 24-hour support and doesn’t always work with people who prefer to sleep on the streets or in shelters, homeless advocates say.

And, there isn’t enough affordable housing in London for people to live on, advocates say.

“Wouldn’t it be great if everyone was accommodated?” It’s a wonderful thought, but not a reality right now, ”said De Actis. “We currently know the cost of housing. “

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“I don’t think we have enough decent housing in the city. Hopefully this is on the town hall council and administration agenda as well, ”Rozeluk said.

The Salvation Army and mission services will respond to the request for proposals to continue housing people and work to restructure their services and facilities, their leaders said.

“There will be additional space. We already have a few ideas circulating. We have a lot of thinking to do over the next few months, ”said Rozeluk.

The Salvation .Army will work with the city throughout the winter to help its residents and figure out how to fit into the model, De Actis said.

“We are looking at reallocating and restructuring things,” he said.

The call for tenders was published on September 13, with an information session on September 22 for organizations. The deadline for submissions is October 13, with the board making a final decision on proposals in December.

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