SUDBURY -- Sudbury took a big step forward on Monday as it looks to tackle chronic homelessness.

Phase one of the city’s first low-barrier, year-round, emergency shelter for adults of all genders is finally finished at 200 Larch Street and started accepting clients at 10 p.m. on Monday.

Run by the Canadian Mental Health Association, the shelter will offer 30 cots, support services, and a warm place to stay.

Marion Quigley is the outgoing chief executive officer for Canadian Mental Health Association Sudbury/Manitoulin.

"It is exactly what we had envisioned and we’re so excited to be welcoming people here today," said Quigley.

Half the first floor will be the Off-The-Street (OTS) Emergency Shelter. Construction crews are still putting finishing touches on a nurse practitioner clinic and harm reduction home, phases two and three of the project, which will open later in the New Year.

"It will be a first contact for many people who are homeless and living on the street," said Quigley.

Quigley has helped navigate this project through its ups and downs, including having to deal with a funding shortfall.

"We know where our mistakes were made. We know what we can do different when we take on new projects," said Quigley.

"There was a comment made today where they said 'when you walk through these doors, it opens many other doors for you,' and I think that’s a good expression, because if you don’t have a place to stay, if you don’t have shelter when it’s cold, just have a place to sleep at night, how are going to access other services?" said Sudbury MPP (NDP) Jamie West.

Cindy Rose is the manager of harm reduction and shelter services at the facility.

"One of our great features that we have this year in our permanent shelter is an actual shower," said Rose.

The shelter will be open seven days a week from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. to individuals who are 18 or older. Because it is a low-barrier shelter, it will not turn people away who are under the influence, however, security will conduct bag checks, and no drugs, alcohol or weapons will be permitted on the premises.

Rose calls Monday’s opening a start, with the ultimate goal finding permanent housing for the city's homeless.

"We don’t want people standing outside, waiting 21st in line to get a cot. We really want them to say 'I have my keys to my own permanent place,'” said Rose.

Most of those at the shelter still say affordable housing is a concern and the recent closure of some low-income apartments hasn’t escaped those on the front-line.

Gail Spencer is coordinator of shelters and homelessness for the City of Greater Sudbury.

"We figure out, okay how can we best address this? How can we make sure people are informed of what services are available and how can we make it easy to connect to them?" said Spencer.

Geoff McCausland is the Sudbury councillor for Ward 4.

"I think we need to look at new ways of doing things. The way that we’ve been doing it doesn’t seem to be responding with an increase to our affordable housing," said McCausland.

In previous years, the OTS shelter had only been open during winter months, but the need doesn't end in the spring. Over 460 individuals used the shelter last winter and staff members helped over 30 people find permanent housing.

Because it relies on community support, the shelter accepts donations of:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Lozenges
  • Toiletries – toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, lip balm
  • New socks and underwear

The city is still looking for partners to step up and open a youth shelter for those ages 16 to 24.