It’s now been just over two weeks since the opening of Kenora’s long-awaited permanent emergency shelter and service hub, located inside the Knox United Church. Officials will the Kenora District Services Board say that so far, the shelter has been an outstanding success.

“It’s coming along great. It’s a much better space than the space that we were using before,” said Chair of the Kenora District Services Board, Barry Baltessen. “It’s a great example of working with community agencies, and the City of Kenora, to put in place some much-needed housing in the community.”

“Not only is it providing a safe place for individuals to be, the programming inside of the facility will link into supports and services. People won’t be out on the streets trying to figure it all out on their own,” said Chief Administrative Officer for the KDSB, Henry Wall.

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. Wall estimates that on any given day, the meal program will serve over 100 people, every single day.

“We’re going to be addressing and taking pressures off of a number of fronts, like policing and emergency medical services. It will also support individuals, so they won’t be on the streets in the downtown core – creating other challenges for the community,” Wall said.

Due to ongoing renovations, the shelter is not open 24/7 yet. For the month of February, the shelter is operating on an 8 p.m. - 8 a.m. basis. The 24/7 services will launch on March 1, along with a grand opening and facility-naming ceremony.

“Having said that, it’s temporary housing,” added Baltessen. “It’s not meant for long-term stays, and we do need additional housing in Kenora. We’re working on that as well, with a significant number of projects and new builds.”

“It’s not the only solution that’s needed in Kenora, but it’s the first-step in a long-term solution that we need to have to get people off of the streets,” noted Wall. “We have a lot of work to do. We need housing, and a lot of it. We’re rolling up our sleeves and taking on these challenges.”

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. 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.

For more information:
‘One-stop shop’ shelter to open today

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