Choices Youth Shelter celebrated the grand opening of the first men’s emergency shelter in Dufferin County.
Staff and board members of Choices Youth Shelter alongside local politicians, and emergency service workers gathered outside of the local youth shelter, located at 59 Townline, last Friday (Aug. 20) to mark the monumental day.
“A men’s shelter has been discussed here at Choices for many years and unfortunately we did not have the resources to support additional time to open one. Recently, the opportunity presented itself through the back of a private donor, and we’re proud to announce the opening of Dufferin Men’s Shelter,” said Randy Narine, chair of Choice Youth Shelter.
“Choices has taken the first steps, but without the help from our community, and long term funding from our leaders, we’ll be unable to sustain the shelter. We’ve taken the first steps and now it’s our community’s job to take the rest of the steps with us.”
Dufferin County’s men’s emergency shelter has been a two year project for Randy Narine, who previously told the Citizen that he wanted to bring a men’s shelter to the community after noticing a gap in existing local services, which are predominately focused on women and youth.
The Dufferin men’s shelter has six beds set up between two facilities, but only three of the beds are available, with the others needed to allow for quarantine if there is an outbreak of COVID-19.
A study conducted in Dufferin County in 2018 counted 44 homeless individuals living in the region. In 2019, Dufferin County implemented the By Name List (BNL), which identifies vulnerable community members experiencing homelessness and connects them to a number of services. Numbers from July of 2020 showed there were 16 members on the BNL in Dufferin County with 69 percent male and 31 percent female.
Althea Alli, director of Choices Youth Shelter, said since opening they’re already facing a long waitlist for individuals looking to access the men’s shelter.
“Everybody here understands how we have been missing a piece in our social services safety in Dufferin County,” said Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones. “It is almost impossible to assist people, if they don’t have a safe place. Having the men’s shelter is going to make a huge difference because it means that we can offer all of those services that we often have in our community, which you can’t access if you don’t have a safe place.”
Choices Youth Shelter typically operates as transitional housing for at risk youth up to the age of 24. According to the BNL data from July 2020, 63 per cent of the individuals facing homelessness were in the age group of 25 to 59.
Alli said the need for transitional housing for those aged out of Choices youth programs is an increasing need.
“COVID has made situations a lot worse, especially affordable housing, there is essentially very limited affordable housing,” said Alli. “These individuals need to be further supported until they’re able to get affordable housing and hopefully this service can support them when they leave Choices to at least something transitional in order to get to a more stable ground.”
Dufferin County’s first men’s emergency shelter was able to open as a result of a $20,000 donation from a private donor, which covers the shelter’s operation cost up to the expiration of the lease next month. They are now looking for the county’s help to fund a permanent shelter, which costs between $200,000 and $300,000 each year.
One main aspect of the men’s shelter is the removal of a drug and alcohol policy, which Narine said he had found a hindrance at other shelters.
“You can show up and we will still take you in if you are intoxicated or on something, we just have a no drug or alcohol policy on site,” said Narine.
The location of the men’s shelter is remaining private at this time but those looking to access it can stop in to Choices’ main office at 59 Townline.
To contact Choices Youth Shelter about accessing the men’s shelter email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shelburne Free Press