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With wintry weather outside, politicians of all stripes are talking about help for the homeless. Patti Fairfield is the executive director of the Friendship Centre, and she offers an update on the shelter in Kenora, which moved to a temporary location late last fall.

"You know, the KDSB (Kenora District Services Board) and the NeChee Friendship Centre are going to be working very diligently on our long-term plan, because two years is going to go by very quickly," she said.

Yesterday morning, the city heard a rezoning application for the temporary shelter operation, which is operating out of the old Mount Carmel School property. It's now the home of the health unit.

Dr. Kit Young-Hoon is the medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit, and she told councillors they had done a survey of 25 neighbouring homes. She said five home owners had complaints about the rezoning, saying they had concerns about noise, loitering, littering and personal safety.

Fred Wright spoke in favour of the application, noting most people would look scary, if they didn't know where they were going to eat next, where they were going to sleep that night or if they might get attacked. While volunteering to serve meals at St. Alban's, Wright said he found most clients were not scary at all, once you got to know them.

While staff are now working out of the newly-renovated facility, the city is having to get caught up on its paperwork. There was some nervousness among presenters yesterday, however, as the city did turn down a previous application last year.

As the chief administrative officer for the Kenora District Services Board, Henry Wall spoke in favour of the application. He said 52 people had frozen outside in Kenora and Sioux Lookout between 2007 and 2012. Wall noted one froze to death on the doorstep of the Ontario Works office.

At the same time, Wall recognized members of the volunteer board at the Fellowship Centre, who had been working week-to-week and month-to-month to try and make ends meet, before reluctantly making the decision to end the service.

"They couldn't continue to limp along," Wall said, adding negotiations around the future of the shelter reached the premier, during her visit last August.

In a year, the shelter operation in Kenora can expect to see about 570 people, who will compile more than 2,000 stays. In Sioux Lookout, about 600 people are expected to use the shelter. Wall noted the stays may increase in Kenora, if the new all-nations hospital goes ahead.

For more information:

Kenora emergency shelter moving into Northwestern Health Unit

Premier's 'fireside chat' in Kenora talks about health, homeless and autonomy

Kenora's emergency shelter moves to Knox

Kenora mayor declares state of emergency


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