‘I’m not apologizing to anybody:’ London pastor says homeless shelter tents staying up

Beth Emanuel Church in London’s SoHo neighbourhood as seen on Nov. 27, 2019. Jaclyn Carbone/980 CFPL

A local pastor is standing his ground after complaints were lodged with the city’s bylaw office over tents on church property, which are meant to operate as a homeless shelter.

In an email to Global News Radio 980 CFPL, the city’s head bylaw officer, Orest Katolyk, confirmed there have been at least five complaints.

READ MORE: Londoners open doors of SoHo church to give city’s homeless a warm place to sleep

“Several of the concerns raised focus on the safety of the tents,” he wrote.

“The City appreciates all the work faith organizations and others are doing on the issue of homelessness. However, there are safety-related regulations in place regarding structural capability of tents ( i.e. snow load) and safety of heat sources.”

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Pastor Dan Morand of Beth Emanuel Church on Grey Street is not deterred, however, and is moving ahead with plans to help 15 to 20 homeless men transition to work, education, rehab programs, or any other forward momentum plan.

“The fact is, a couple weeks ago when we did have that cold snap and the snow, we were delivering tarps and stuff to keep people warm that were literally sleeping by the river,” he said.

“I know people don’t see that — we see it, we know people, we do see it and we also had six people that we personally know that passed away last year. I’m not apologizing to anybody.”

The tents are set up on the Grey St. church’s property. Jaclyn Carbone/980 CFPL

Morand also says Urban Haven Project has done the research and has confidence in the tents.

“This is maybe not the perfect solution, but I’ll tell you these are awesome tents. And to prove it, our staff is going to try it out first,” he explained.

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“At Urban Haven, we never do anything without doing it ourselves. We would never feed anybody anything we wouldn’t eat, we would never give anybody something to wear that we wouldn’t wear ourselves, and we’re certainly not going to have anybody in a tent that we wouldn’t have slept in.”

READ MORE: 70 individuals housed thanks to London’s first-ever Housing Stability Week

The tents are the first phase of the program, according to Morand, who says the next phase is to raise funds for staff and other program costs.

“Phase III will be getting the staff, which we’ve already got a lot of mental health nurses that have offered to come on board,” he said.

“Then we’ll interview the guys, get the guys in, and we’ve already got agencies that are sending us potential men for the program.”

At the time Morand spoke with 980 CFPL on Wednesday morning, he also said that he had yet to even hear from the city about the complaints.

In the email from the city, Katolyk said “[i]nternal discussions are ongoing and conversations will be occurring very shortly with the Urban Haven Project.”
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