Downtown Mission faces staffing, funding issues as more people look for shelter

·2 min read
The Downtown Mission in Windsor, Ont., is short on staff amid an increased demand for shelter services.  (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)
The Downtown Mission in Windsor, Ont., is short on staff amid an increased demand for shelter services. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)

The Downtown Mission in Windsor, Ont., is struggling to keep an eye on all the people needing a warm bed, as the organization lacks staff and may lose its federal funding.

The federal funding, provided through the City of Windsor, made it possible to open space on the shelter's second floor to allow for social distancing during the pandemic, but it's expected to end March 31.

Currently, Downtown Mission has room for 80 overnight guests, down from the pre-COVID-19 number of 103. That requires more staff.

"It is now 80 people who are needing more time, and support and energy," said interim executive director Rukshini Ponniah-Goulin, adding that staff have to enforce COVID-19 safety measures at the shelter.

There are a variety of reasons the shelter has seen less staff, mostly due to the pandemic. Those who have stayed on are feeling burnt out.

"It's pretty scary to say the least because we are at an all-time high in terms of service needs," said Ponniah-Goulin.

"We're not the only one, other shelters in the area are at capacity almost every night."

Stacey Janzer/CBC
Stacey Janzer/CBC

Because of an increased demand for shelter, some people have been turned away.

On top of staffing shortages, the mission needs volunteers.

"Before the pandemic, there were more than 1,800 volunteers any given year, but they are now down to about 400. These are people working in the kitchen or warehouse," said Ponniah-Goulin.

"Many are still afraid and rightfully so ... we understand that and we're doing the best we can with the volunteers we have."

Ponniah-Goulin said the city has been a great partner, offering personal protective equipment and cleaning materials to the shelter.

For now, the shelter is looking for volunteers to help sort through the increased food donations being received this time of year.

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