Chez Doris women’s day shelter gradually reopens after lack of staff forced closure

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Chez Doris women’s day shelter gradually reopens after lack of staff forced closure
WATCH: After temporarily closing front-line services in September because of staffing shortages, Chez Doris is gradually resuming services offered to vulnerable clients. It's a huge relief for those who had been affected by the temporary pause. Global's Phil Carpenter reports. – Dec 12, 2023

Tuesday was the first time since September that most clients of the Chez Doris shelter for women have been able to have a meal there.

They had the honour of being served lunch by Montreal firefighters, a holiday tradition that’s a decade old.

“This year we have a hundred of us out in these nine teams, and we’ll serve over 1,900 meals this year alone,” explained retired firefighter David Shelton.

They have personnel at other locations, but what makes it so special at Chez Doris is that the shelter has just resumed much of its day services.

“As soon as I came here I said, ‘Honey, I’m home,'” laughed client Mina Sequaluk who lives on the street.

Chez Doris paused some day services in September because of staffing challenges. More and more people were showing up for help and the organization had trouble recruiting enough staff to keep up. Chez Doris took the break to hire more people.

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“Fifteen people started on Nov. 17th,” said Marina Boulos-Winton, executive director.  “They were all onboarded at the same time, they all received the same training.”

She says, however, they need 20 more, so that’s why the reopening is gradual — Mondays to Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., for now.

“The next group of people that we will likely hire are weekend case workers,” she explained. “That will likely be in January.”

By spring 2024 she expects to have the final team, evening workers, in place and with that a return to 24-hour service. They are also trying to recruit case workers to help with housing.

But according to Boulos-Winton, finding staff is still a challenge, so they’re trying to be more competitive in the tight labor market.

“We’ve also increased our wages though we’re still trying to improve them,” she told Global News.

She adds that there’s a serious shortage in the social service sector, so finding staff means taking from somewhere else.

Clients, though, say they are happy to have this place.

“I feel so comfortable,” sighed longtime client Icha Bellatif after lunch. “I see my family — everyone — here, and I go home without any problems, nothing,

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For the housed and unhoused alike, it’s a place of refuge.


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