Huron County home­less shel­ter to open in Goderich Jan. 20

The Goderich Signal-Star - - NEWS - Sub­mit­ted

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.

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