SUDBURY -- A key service helping the most vulnerable people in Greater Sudbury has reopened downtown.

The Canadian Mental Health Association Sudbury/Manitoulin’s Off The Street Emergency Shelter has returned to 200 Larch Street.

The 30-bed shelter had been operating out of a Regent Street motel, but now with COVID-19 safety precautions in place, 200 Larch has reopened. It is a health services hub established by community partners with the goal to address issues related to mental health, addictions and homelessness in Sudbury’s downtown core.

 “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the negative fallout is disproportionately affecting our society’s most vulnerable individuals, and they need our community’s compassion and support,” Patty MacDonald, the CEO of the mental health association in Sudbury/Manitoulin, is quoted as saying in a news release.

“Evidence shows helping individuals get back on their feet with comprehensive, wraparound services that meet them where they are is the most effective way to support people back to health and wellness. With a whole community response to mental health, addictions and homelessness in Sudbury, we will create a healthier, safer community in the long term.”

Resources and programs

Resources and programs available through 200 Larch provide vulnerable individuals in Sudbury with increased access to mental health and addictions services, supportive housing and primary health care, the release said. The supports, provided at the right time and place, are intended to create a healthier community and reduce emergency department visits, as well as involvement with the justice system.

Recent violent incidents have highlighted the need for services downtown. The general manager of the downtown BIA welcomed the news.

“Our downtown has seen an increase in homelessness and substance use disorders since the start of the pandemic, not unlike other northern communities," Kendra MacIsaac said in the release. "With the opening of 200 Larch, we have hope that this will a positive impact on the challenges that we've been facing for the past six months."

Mayor Brian Bigger said addressing mental health, addictions and homelessness challenges downtown "is a top priority."

"200 Larch will provide our most vulnerable with access to much-needed housing, medical and social services and I am confident that through this and many other initiatives currently underway, we will have a significant impact on those in need."

The shelter opened in 2014 after it was determined the needs of individuals in the downtown core of Sudbury were not being met and key services were lacking.

Shelters not accessible to some

"There was a very high use of emergency and hospital services, and the shelters were not accessible to those who were using substances, fostering negative outcomes for the individuals that were homeless and struggling with addictions," the release said.

In March, the Sudbury District Nurse Practitioner Clinics opened their third location on the main floor. The clinic offers comprehensive primary health care to individuals of all ages. Appointments are a mix of scheduled and same-day spots for a wide variety of health conditions. The clinic also offers group classes for patients, foot care, counselling through a social worker, nutritional counselling and more.

In July, the Harm Reduction Home relocated to the second floor of 200 Larch to provide residence to individuals struggling with substance use disorders. The program provides access to the managed alcohol program.

"200 Larch will allow the Harm Reduction Program to expand to a 15-participant residential program," the release said. "Individuals are supported 24 hours a day, and provided assistance with access to housing, as well as addressing mental health needs."