North Bay officials hope newest homeless shelter will be a permanent solution
NORTH BAY -- It's the first step in what officials hope with be a wellness hub in the city and, after being open for a few weeks, things are off to a good start.
"Things have been going really well," said program manager Chris Wyness, with Nipissing Mental Health Housing Support Services. "In terms of capacity, we're usually at our limit each night and if we do have any overflow, we do our best to triage and try to find folks accommodations utilizing other supports in the city."
The site on Chippewa Road has been operating for the last several weeks. It has a maximum capacity of 12 guests per night and is available from 9 p.m. until 8 a.m.
"It's running smoothly," said Nipissing District Housing Corporation chair Dave Mendicino. "It's running a lot more smoothly then it was at Palangio. Palangio was a 24-hour emergency shelter, this one is 12 hours, so we're ironing out all the issues and it's running smoothly."
Moved numerous times
Since December, the shelter has been moved numerous times, starting at the former Good To Go site, then the YMCA, the Pete Palangio arena and now the old Ontario Provincial Police station.
The hope is that this location will turn into a mental health and addictions hub for those in need in the city.
Currently, there is a 16-room transitional housing unit under construction on the property that will hopefully be completed by the end of the year, making Chippewa Road a permanent solution.
"Stability is what's needed to deal with mental health and addictions," said Mendicino.
"The fact that we have this permanent location right now, it means so much, especially for the guests who come here on a regular bases knowing that they're not going to have to move to another location next month," Wyness added.
When guests arrive at the shelter, they go through a screening and check-in process. Once inside, they are assigned a space, a locker and have the option to have a shower. However, the hope is to provide more than just a place to lay their head.
"They'll be asked about current supports, they'll be connected to supports if they want," said Wyness. "That can mean anything from housing supports, mental health and addiction support, financial supports. It's sort of a wraparound approach here." said Wyness.
Still much to be done
Although the low-barrier homeless shelter is operating smoothly, officials said there is still a lot to be done for the homeless population.
"We do get individuals coming from out of town, there's a program in place now where we're not just putting them on a bus, but we're hooking them up with services in their hometown," said Mendicino. "So we're dealing with issues as they come up and we're moving forward."
The current shelter has 12 individual cubbies with cots and although only open for a few weeks now, officials said it might need to expand.
"I think we're seeing a need to increase the current level of capacity that we have," said Wyness. "But I think folks like the DSAB and other agencies are talking about solutions to that right now, so fingers crossed."