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Review highlights challenges facing Timmins homeless shelter

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A special city council meeting in Timmins on Wednesday evening focused on the future of the Living Space homeless shelter and a report highlighting issues that need to be resolved.

A presentation to council sparked discussion around what a better shelter and services could look like -- and that changes will cost more money than is currently available.

“Homelessness will get worse in Canada, and it will get worse in northern Ontario, and it will get worse in Timmins,” Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board director Brian Marks told councillors.

Marks said the pressure is on to take creative action to make the homeless shelter his agency funds better and improve the city’s mental health and addictions care system.

A review of Living Space found that people feel it’s not run effectively, doesn’t offer enough support to clients and that its location makes nearby residents feel unsafe.

Hearing those findings, some city councillors felt the shelter should be moved and re-imagined.

“More of a one-stop, so one place they can attend and we’d have the agencies 24/7,” said Coun. John Curley.

A special city council meeting in Timmins on Wednesday evening focused on the future of the Living Space homeless shelter and a report highlighting issues that need to be resolved. (File)

Marks agreed that the city needs more shelters and that his agency is working to fix issues that arose from the review. But he said the situation is at a point where the community needs to work with what it already has.

“We need to change the way we do things because there is no more money to be able to add resources, to dedicate those solely to homelessness,” Marks said.

Money to 'fix this'

Coun. Steve Black remarked that someone does have the money to fix this.

“This collective group should be going down to the province and saying, ‘This is our issue. You have failed to address this issue,’” Black said.

“Maybe the funding comes from the federal government and they’re not committing it. Invite them to the same table.”

The review didn’t include a concrete action plan moving forward, leaving some in the audience with mixed feelings.

“There wasn’t a lot of answers that I expected to hear,” one person in attendance told CTV News.

“I was expecting more, moving forward, hearing about rehabilitation and other options, but there wasn’t much discussion of it.”

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But Mayor Michelle Boileau said the review was a starting point for action.

“We are looking for ways to be able to move forward and move through this, and so you did present tangible action items,” Boileau said.

“I think the city has to take the lead in leading this challenge, with a whole bunch of shared partners within our community,” Marks added. 

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