Two hotels in Sundridge and Parry Sound support homeless project

·4 min read

The Chief Administration Officer of the District of Parry Sound Social Services Administration Board says it wasn't difficult to convince the owners of two hotels in Parry Sound District to take part in the DSSAB's Hotel Project for the homeless. Tammy MacKenzie says the owners “are 100 per cent with us”. The DSSAB has rented 18 rooms at the Midtown Hotel in Parry Sound and four rooms and four cabins at the Caswell Resort in Sundridge to ensure people who become homeless have a secure place to go. “I found that both owners and the management teams are extremely supportive and compassionate to the clients,” MacKenzie said. MacKenzie says there are rules the clients need to respect, like no smoking or cooking in the rooms. “However, there are microwaves and mini fridges so you can eat,” MacKenzie says. “But we didn't want to get into the hotplate scenario because that comes with a whole other risk level.” MacKenzie says the accommodations are not meant to be permanent but are only temporary until the individual can get into an apartment or housing unit, and that's another reason why the DSSAB doesn't want to see them get into a habit of cooking meals. She adds some individuals will be in the rooms for a few weeks while the stay may be a couple of months for others. MacKenzie says the hotel staff clean the rooms once a week but she adds some clients offer to change the sheets themselves or take out the garbage. “The staff have told me some clients say 'hey can I help out, can I vacuum the floors?' because they want to contribute,” she said. MacKenzie says so far the reception from the clients who are part of the hotel project has been positive. “Some have said they feel safe in the hotel setting because there's always someone around,” MacKenzie said. On the security for the hotel employees, MacKenzie says “we've never had any harm to a staff member or seen any reason for them to feel unsafe”. MacKenzie says DSSAB also has a partnership with the West Parry Sound OPP where the police are invited to drop by the Midtown Hotel at any time. “The OPP are an integral part in everything we do to keep everyone safe,” MacKenzie said. “So when the OPP show up, it's not because something happened but it's to provide support.” MacKenzie says she'll soon be reaching out to the Almaguin Highlands OPP detachment to make the same arrangement where they can visit the DSSAB clients at the Caswell at any time. As someone who has worked in large shelters, MacKenzie says security and threats were always a concern. “But when people have their own space, the concern greatly lessens,” she says. MacKenzie acknowledges there will always be disagreements between the clients and hotel staff that involve the guidelines on what is allowable and not permissible while in the rooms. But she again says any incidents have been minor in nature. In addition, the DSSAB has contracted the West Parry Sound Health Centre for its employees to provide overnight monitoring at the Midtown from 8 p.m. to 7:15 a.m. the next day. There are enough hotel staff at the Midtown to provide daytime monitoring. In addition, the DSSAB has access to other support services like the Community Mental Health Association. In the case of the Caswell, the existing staff are able to provide daytime and nighttime monitoring. MacKenzie says the employees involved in the support areas have conflict de-escalation skills. “And if the matter exceeds what we're able to do, we'd ask the OPP for support,” MacKenzie said. The pilot program is scheduled to end Dec. 31. MacKenzie says between now and the end of the year, there will be a lot of indicators to measure the success of the program, including if some elements of the project need tweaking to see if the pilot continues beyond this year.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget