Community partners gathered today to celebrate the long-awaited grand opening of Kenora’s new emergency shelter and service hub, located beside Knox United Church. With the official launch now over, the shelter will now provide 24/7 services to those in need in the community.
“Today is the culmination of a lot of effort from a lot of people. The Kenora District Services Board is so proud of this project. This is an important day,” said KDSB chair Barry Baltessen.
“We want to recognize that this is the way that projects will get done in the future, using partnerships and cooperation with agencies in the area. Important infrastructure and services, this is the way of the future for getting stuff done in the district,” he added.
The project between the Kenora District Services Board, Ne-Chee Friendship Centre and Knox United Church was approved last January. The city hasn’t had a permanent emergency shelter since 2016, which prompted former-mayor Dave Canfield to declare a state of emergency over the matter.
The temporary shelter was located in the Northwestern Health Unit building. The former location housed 18 people in need each night, providing partial food services and sleeping mats on the floor. Councillors with the City of Kenora estimate that the city has roughly 220 homeless people.
“I’m so happy that we’re here to celebrate this grand opening,” said Patti Fairfield, executive director of the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre. “We’ve already been open at this location since February 1, but moving into this location, it’s amazing. After almost four years, we’re here. We’re very ecstatic.”
The newly-renovated space will house 44 beds, and four transitional units for those who need a safe space “for a while.” The space will also include full sleeping, showering, washroom, supportive services, socializing and eating facilities, as well as gender neutral spaces.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served daily for anyone in need of a meal – not just those staying at the shelter. The chief administrative officer for the KDSB, Henry Wall, estimates that on any given day, the meal program will serve over 100 people, every single day.
Wall served as the master of ceremonies for this morning's event, which included special guests Steve Clark, the minister for municipal affairs and housing, as well as the minister responsible for northern development and Indigenous Affairs, Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford.
The shelter was set to open in October, 2018, but the date was pushed back due to construction delays. Construction began in May of 2018, after the project was approved a few months prior. The Kenora District Services Board, Knox United and the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre have a 20-year lease to keep the shelter in the old community hall for Knox United.
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Successful launch for emergency shelter