The long-awaited permanent emergency shelter and service hub, located at Knox United Church, is finally set to open today after years of work and planning from a variety of community partners.
“It has been a long road to get to this point, but the important piece is that we are almost there. I cannot express in words how truly excited I am for the patrons who will be accessing it and what this means for them,” said Patti Fairfield, the Executive Director of the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre.
The newly-renovated space will house 46 private areas for occasional use, 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.
“This is going to be something completely new that we’ve never seen before in the City of Kenora,” added Fairfield. “Not only will people have a place to go to sleep at night, shower, eat, and all those things. We’re bringing the services to them. It’s a one-stop shop. I’m so excited and happy for what this is going to mean to those individuals who need the facility.”
While the shelter opens today, due to ongoing renovations, it will not be open 24/7 yet. For the month of February, the shelter will operate on an 8 p.m. - 8 a.m. basis. The 24/7 services will launch on March 1.
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.
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.
“It is not uncommon for there to be delays in major renovation projects. Given the age of the building, there were a number of unforeseen factors that needed to be addressed once renovations began and delays in acquiring materials for the installation of a new lift and plumbing,” said Henry Wall, Chief Administrative Officer of the KDSB.
The Kenora District Services Board, Knox United and the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre have a 20-year lease to keep the shelter in Knox United.
“All organizations involved are dedicated to ensuring that this project is done with the highest standards in mind, in turn, providing a new building that is conducive to providing support for those who will access its services.”
To offset the delay, the KDSB extended financial support agreements with the Kenora Fellowship Centre to provide meals to those in need.
The KDSB and the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre would like to thank the Northwestern Health Unit for providing a space for the temporary shelter; community partners and the City of Kenora for their support in this project; and, the Nelson Architecture team and Kenon Builders for their hard work and dedication in making the new Service Hub become a reality.
Knox United Church offers its thanks to First Baptist Church; Gillons Insurance; First Presbyterian Church; and, St. Alban’s Cathedral for generously opening their doors to our staff and its many groups over the past six months. The congregation is also grateful for the ongoing work of the Fellowship Centre and many other community organizations who have continued to provide meals seven days a week, as well as the careful work of Kenon builders and the attentiveness of the KDSB.
A grand opening for the new facility is set for March 15, 2019.
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