Jesuit retreat centre shifts gears
Offers shelter for the vulnerably housed
the ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ont., is one of the latest church-related facilities to shift gears in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 50-year-old centre, which usually hosts retreats and workshops based on the religious teaching and exercises of the 16thcentury Spaniard Ignatius Loyola, became temporary housing for Guelph and Wellington County’s homeless in November.
The decision to provide temporary housing was guided by the Roman Catholic group’s directive to “walk with the poor,” and “was a simple choice for us,” says director of operations Lisa Calzonetti. “The question was not if we would do it, but how we would do it.”
Each of the 48 single rooms in the centre’s two-floor accommodation wing has its own bed, window and sinks to limit the risks of transmission. With women on one floor and men on another, all will be able to use the large common room and dining room.
“It’s not a shelter model,” says Calzonetti, noting residents won’t be required to leave during the day. Since the centre is just outside Guelph’s city limits, a shuttle service will be set up for residents who need to go to work or various appointments. For those who spend their time at the centre, Calzonetti says there are a number of opportunities for residents to keep busy, from working on the centre’s farm, helping out in the kitchen or with housekeeping. Residents can also take advantage of the centre’s 200-hectare property, which includes 25 km of hiking trails and sacred spaces.
The Loyola House Supportive Temporary Accommodation Pilot is slated to run for a year.
“We want to be a retreat centre again,” says Calzonetti, noting the income from the pilot project gives the centre some breathing space, “offsetting a spiralling deficit.”