Empty rooms, garbage disposal, packing boxes, and good-byes among staff and clients marked the final day of operations at Brantford’s Winter Warming Shelter.
Winter Warmth opened late October to increase the city’s capacity for emergency shelter beds after some in need were turned away from other shelters on the first cold night of the year as they were already at capacity.
The temporary shelter utilized the vacant space in the former police station on Greenwich Street.
Executive Director of Rosewood House and Winter Warmth Manager, Tim Philp, says following a one-month extension, the doors closed permanently on Friday at the site.
“It’s kinda a bittersweet day. I know my staff is pretty upset,” says Philp. “I think we performed a pretty useful service here.”
When the city forcibly removed the occupants and disassembled a homeless encampment located behind the Greenwich shelter late last fall, one man was found unconscious and suffering from hypothermia. “I actually think we contributed to saving some lives over the winter,” Philp says. “My staff and I are particularly proud of that.”
Crews worked through the day Friday at Winter Warmth to empty the facility. Philp has requested items, such as bedding and mattresses at Rosewood House, and is awaiting the decision from the city. However, many other supplies, such as temporary partitions used appliances, are heading for disposal.
The former police station has now been sold and no longer available to the city as a temporary shelter in the future, if required. “The city has increased the number of spaces with the opening of Marlene Avenue, Rosewood has expanded its facility, Salvation Army got another ten beds, so there is roughly the same number of beds that we had before,” says Philp. “I think the situation next year is going to depend on a lot of factors. Obviously this is not a cheap way to do things. The city will have to make a determination on how many people are out in encampments, how many people are in shelters, plus the city’s ability to afford this type of thing is not infinite either.”
Six clients spent the last night at the shelter. Others who have been using the shelter services have been gradually placed at other shelters or the city’s quarantine site at Townplace Suites on Oakpark Road. “Everybody who left here has been offered a place to stay,” Philp explains. “Whether they choose to accept that or not is up to them.”
The city’s new supportive housing development on Marlene Avenue will also be ready for occupancy on June 1st. The 30 studio apartments will house some of the area’s chronically homeless. The project was funded by the city in partnership with the province’s Homes for Good program and also includes support for residents through addiction counseling and job search skills.
“We’ve had people at Rosewood House and here (Winter Warmth) who have dates to move into Marlene Avenue, and I’m quite pleased by that,” says Philp. “The people that are moving into Marlene Avenue have been somewhat marginal in terms of their success at the regular shelters. There are many factors that cause mental health, drug addiction, or both, and sometimes it makes it very very difficult for people with those problems to live in a communal setting like Rosewood or Salvation Army or others. I’m hoping that Marlene Avenue being an assisted facility, will be helpful to them.”
Those seeking emergency shelter on weekdays during business hours are encouraged to contact the city’s Social Services Support Centre at 519-759-7009. During the evenings and weekends, those in need of shelter can call the Salvation Army at 519-753-4193.