Huron County homeless shelter to open in Goderich Jan. 20
Hesitantly, he wandered into the church office. Clearly not dressed for success, he asked if we helped with food or food cards. He, his wife and three children, including an infant, had been staying with his sisterin- law. That morning the tension of having a family of five on the sister-in-law’s doorstep erupted and they were kicked out. The food had to be something they could eat without cooking. His wife and children could make their way to the Women’s Shelter, but he would have to find somewhere out of the cold until they could figure things out. Although helped with a bit of ready to eat food and a grocery store card it is a helpless feeling to watch someone without much hope walk out into the cold.
Too many stories like this are told too frequent in Huron County, its villages and towns. Whether we want to recognize it or not, homelessness exists here in Goderich and throughout the county, although it may be more hidden than in a large city. “Couch Surfing,” that is, staying with a family member or friend until the welcome wears out, is still homelessness – as the individual is at the mercy of the host. It is not a permanent residence and is precarious at best. Increasing hydro rates, rising food prices, rising rents have all surpassed hourly wages and social assistance programs. More families and individuals are experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness in our own community. This is not just a problem for large urban centres.
Over a year ago, county staff and the Goderich Ministerial began meeting to see if we could address the need for emergency shelter beds for men in the County. Big questions were raised: are there enough people who would use the services to make it viable, and could we rec r u i t enough volunteers to make it work?
A pilot project was envisioned that would help us answer those questions. Lakeshore United Church needs very little in terms of renovations to accommodate the shelter temporar i l y . However, i t i s a busy place most evenings, so the shelter doors do not open until 9: 30 p. m. after all church and community programs are finished. Guests wi l l spend the night , with a matt ress, warm bedding, a bowl of soup or something warm and caring staff and volunteers will ensure safety, d i g n i t y and re s p e c t . Guests will be provided with breakfast and then leave the Shelter by 8 a. m.
Because of the late hour for opening the Shelter doors, there wi l l be a warming centre offered at First Baptist Church on Montreal St. from 7 p. m. to 9: 30 p. m. There wi l l be warmth, volunteers and simple food available for those intending to use the overnight Shelter later that evening. Should the need prove sufficient to continue the project – a permanent site wi l l be secured for next shelter/ cold season likely beginning in November 2017. At a permanent site, the d o o r s w o u l d re c e i v e guests at 7 p. m.
The success of the project will rely on the commitment of volunteers to assist the staff each night. We require individuals over 18 years who are willing to stay awake through the night, once a week, once a month, or whatever suits the volunteer. The usual volunteer shift will be from 9: 15 p. m. to 8: 15 a. m. Volunteers need an open and caring heart and a willingness to treat everyone with respect and dignity. Volunteers are also needed to help at the Warming Centre from 7 p. m. to 9: 30 p. m. Training and support will be provided to all volunteers.
The intended opening night of the shelter will be Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.
If you would like to volunteer or more information, email huronoutofcold@ gmail. com or call Kate at 519- 524- 2103 or Stephen at 519- 441- 0128.
Steven and Cheryl Scott with their first born son Hendrik Douglas.