A new plan from London, Ont., city staff aims to provide an emergency response for helping those who will be experiencing homelessness during the winter months.
The Winter Response Program for Unsheltered Individuals comes with an anticipated price tag of $2.3 million and takes into account added pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will be debated by London’s community and protective services committee (CPSC) on Tuesday before it can be approved by full city council on Dec. 8.
Those added pandemic pressures have left existing programs and services for those experiencing homelessness unable to expand capacity during the winter months, according to a report on the plan.
London currently has 200 shelter spaces, 122 hotel rooms and 15 resting spaces available for unsheltered individuals.
The winter response seeks to add 60 overnight shelter spaces, with the option to expand those spaces if such an expansion can be staffed. Overnight spaces offer those experiencing homeless a place to “rest (and) access basic needs and supports,” according to the report.
The additional overnight spaces, which can also be used during the day, will be split between two locations: One at the T-Block at 652 Elizabeth St. and the other at an unnamed privately owned parking lot in downtown London.
The spaces will be provided through “heated temporary structures enclosed by construction fencing” and will provide access to washrooms, showers and laundry services.
The winter response also seeks to open up two city buildings for 60 additional day spaces, which are “focused on providing a warm space for individuals to get out of the cold, access basic needs and build a sense of community.”
The 60 spaces will be split between the Hamilton Road Seniors Centre and the Dundas Place Field House.
City staff and volunteers will be on site during the operating hours of both the day spaces and the overnight shelter spaces.
The anticipated cost of the winter response is pegged at just under $975,000 by the end 2020 and about $1.3 million for the costs incurred in 2021.
City staff hope to fund the plan, in part, by using cash that was doled out to municipalities by senior levels of government to help pay for pandemic-related costs. The rest of the plan would be funded by reallocated city dollars.
Acting director of housing, social services and Dearness Home, Kevin Dickins, says the winter response aims to help about 120 people who known to be sleeping unsheltered in London.
“Our winter plan, if you do the math, is not going to provide 120 beds, but it is a piece of the puzzle,” Dickins said.
“This is not going to be something that solves homelessness in London this year, it will be something that is in place for the winter months, probably through until close to the end of April.”
If all the approvals are granted, Dickins says they hope to have all of additional the spaces up and running before the end of December.