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Indigenous-led shelter site to be located at London’s Parkwood Institute: Atlohsa

Parkwood Institute in London, Ont., as seen in a 3D rendering on Google Maps. Google Maps

Officials with Atlohsa Family Healing Services have announced a new location for their planned Indigenous-led temporary shelter site, in partnership with the city and St. Joseph’s Health Care London.

The shelter, part of the city’s Winter Response Plan, will be located on the grounds of Parkwood Institute in south London, with land backing onto Westminster Ponds, the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

In a statement, Raymond Deleary, Atlohsa’s executive director, said the agency is excited to offer “an Indigenous-led winter response in a safe location that meets the needs of our community members and staff,” noting the development stems from their Atlohsa and SJHCL’s prior partnership with the Biigajiiskaan Indigenous Pathways to Mental Wellness program.

“We have been overwhelmed with positive community response following the fire at River Road, and we extend our gratitude to those who have reached out with offers of support. Prior to colonization, there was a place in our communities for everyone,” he added.

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“The support we have received from St. Joseph’s and the wider London community reminds us of our shared values of kindness, respect and inclusivity.”

Read more: Atlohsa calls for urgent action to address Indigenous homelessness after River Road arson arrest

Just over two weeks ago, a fire tore through the clubhouse of the former city-owned River Road Golf Course on Nov. 7, causing roughly $1 million in damages. The fire came just days after it was announced the location was proposed as the site of a shelter serving up to 30 Indigenous people experiencing homelessness.

“The loss of River Road Golf Course as an option for an Indigenous-led temporary shelter was very difficult. The generosity of St. Joseph’s Health Care London and the hard work and dedication of Atlohsa Family Healing Services have made it possible to quickly secure a new and appropriate location to meet an urgent need in this community,” said Kevin Dickins, deputy city manager of social and health development.

“The Indigenous-led temporary shelter site is a critical part of our winter response. We will continue to work closely with Atlohsa, and are committed to supporting them as they deliver this important service this winter.”

Roy Butler, the president and CEO of SJHCL, said the organization was honoured to be working with Atlohsa, the Indigenous community and the city to provide a location for the shelter.

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“We need to work together to find meaningful solutions that address homelessness in our community, and we are thankful to be able to support this urgent need,” he said.

Read more: City of London employee arrested in connection with River Road Golf Course fire

54-year-old city employee, Michael Peter Belanger, a supervisor on the city’s fleet team, was arrested and charged on Nov. 12 with one count of arson causing damage to property. He was released by police with an undertaking to appear in court on Feb. 7, 2022. The allegations against Belanger have not been proven.

The conditions of his undertaking stipulate Belanger must not to go to River Road Golf Course and must notify police within 24 hours of any change to his address, court documents show. Belanger is currently suspended with pay, according to the city.

City tax records show Belanger and his spouse Susie Dietrich-Belanger are listed as the owners of a nearby house, 2255 River Rd. The city’s assessment parcel map shows the rear property line of the address backs onto the course.

The home was put on the market in September for $1.8 million, with Dietrich-Belanger as the listing agent. The asking price was lowered to $1.6 million in October. The listing has since been taken down.

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