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Zack's Crib reports on two months of hope and challenge

Darlene Wroe

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

TEMISKAMING SHORES - Zack's Crib director Cindy Dube and coordinator Wolfie attended the February 21 meeting of DTSSAB to outline how the first two months of the new shelter in New Liskeard have been going.

Dube said at the District of Timiskaming Social Services Administration Board (DTSSAB) meeting that, from the time Zack's Crib opened in early December, she has realized that the community sees the shelter as "possibly filling a gap that was here in the Temiskaming Shores area."

It also is giving hope that for people experiencing homelessness there is "a place to sleep and some help in order to refer them to the help they need in order to end their homelessness."

She commended the staff at Zack's Crib and said meeting those hopes are "what we've been attempting to do over the past two months."

While the work is challenging, "we have a wonderful staff, a wonderful team. Everybody has each other's back.

"People who come to Zack's Crib are homeless for many different reasons," Dube said.

Over the first two months 35 individuals have come to Zack's Crib.

"They are mostly from Temiskaming Shores."

Occasionally people coming to the shelter are just passing through but that is rare, she said, "and when they pass through it's very short."

There are seven people who return regularly, and their names have been added to the By Names List created by DTSSAB to identify people awaiting housing.

Zack's Crib, which has 12 beds, has not yet seen an evening where people had to be turned away, she continued.

Wolfie, the shelter's coordinator, said people are admitted for the night on a first-come, first-served basis. The shelter opens at 10 p.m. in the evening and closes again at 8 a.m. Guests are provided breakfast before they leave and are also provided with a packed lunch made by community volunteers.

Wolfie told the board that he uses a holistic approach to try to help those who come to the shelter.

"There are a lot of things going on" with individuals who use the shelter, he said.

Zack’s also works with the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Timiskaming Health Unit, Victim Services of Temiskaming and District, and the Pavilion Women's Centre, he continued.

It was questioned why the shelter does not also provide daytime access for people, and it was pointed out that there seems to be increased loitering in downtown New Liskeard.

Wolfie outlined some sites where people can be inside while also obtaining services such as furthering education or attending the library. Dube later detailed that individuals have the choice of attending places like Employment Options to help find employment or build employment readiness, and that Northern College can provide opportunities for furthering education. The Temiskaming Shores Public Library and the Community Fridge are also often open.

Dube added that people may "prefer to walk around and be outside, talking to people," and that could be beneficial for them.

Temiskaming Shores Mayor Jeff Laferriere added that individuals seen loitering in downtown New Liskeard may not necessarily be the same people using the shelter at night.

Housing manager Steve Cox pointed out that increased loitering has been noticed in Timmins but is not connected with the presence of the shelter, although people had been drawing that conclusion. He said it is important to avoid making assumptions.

Coleman Township Councillor Lois Perry relayed the positive comments she has heard about the Zack's Crib staff.

"I've heard such good things. I want to commend the both of you on everything I'm hearing about the facility."

She said the service is being provided with "class, caring and compassion. Everything is done with empathy."

Dube later commented to The Speaker by email that she was happy to be able to make the presentation to the DTSSAB board. She emphasized the work being done by the staff in providing the service.

"My staff are doing so well and at times they struggle because the work is not easy. We work as a team supporting each other."

Darlene Wroe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker