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Coronavirus: Ontario announces over $7M for London, St. Thomas shelters

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FILE. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

The City of London and City of St. Thomas will receive more than $7-million more in funding to go towards protecting homeless shelter staff and residents from the threat of COVID-19, the province says.

On Wednesday, the provincial government announced an additional $255 million across Ontario to address an increase in outbreaks in homeless shelters. Of that, $5,567,913 is allocated for London while $1,525,174 is allocated for St. Thomas.

Read more: Coronavirus: Ontario to spend $255 million to address COVID-19 outbreaks in homeless shelters

“I am very proud that our government continues to provide essential housing relief funding to support our most vulnerable neighbours,” said Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek.

“This lifesaving funding is being used for a range of innovative and inspiring initiatives that ensure everyone has a safe place to call home during these challenging times.”

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The province says municipal service managers and Indigenous program partners can use the funds on motel and hotel spaces so that they can maintain physical distancing even when demand is high. Money can also be used to hire more staff, buy personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and be used toward rent and utility banks for those at risk of losing housing.

Read more: Labour Ministry launches investigation days after COVID-19 outbreak declared at London shelter

“We’re very fortunate. The province has been very consistent with us in the vulnerable sector throughout COVID,” London’s acting managing director of housing and social services Kevin Dickins told Global News.

“Through our community organizations, since a year now, 12 months, we’ve been able to permanently house 374 people that had been living in a tent somewhere, in a shelter, in a hotel or in our temporary winter response.”

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While Dickens says the funding is much-needed, he also notes that it’s one-time and has to be spent by the end of December.

“So what we’re left doing is building temporary responses. We’re not exactly putting in place a permanent solution. So I know our task and our advocacy through our ministry channels will be to continue this level of funding on a permanent basis so we can actually get to more permanent solutions.”

Read more: The Ark’s ‘Out of the Cold’ program in London doubles capacity thanks to YMCA

The funding is through the Social Services Relief Fund launched by the province one year ago at the start of the pandemic.

The province says the fund has so far provided $765 million “to help service managers and Indigenous program partners support shelters, create longer-term housing solutions and help vulnerable Ontarians affected by COVID-19, including those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”

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–With files from The Canadian Press

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