Monday marks a day of travel for Ronald Rich and his companion, John Tuinstra.
“I’m escorting Ron to Toronto, just to make sure that he has a place to reside,” says Tuinstra. “We got the notion that, well, Toronto is 15,000 in the streets right now, so it could be a prolonging. It could be a couple of days before he gets a place.”
Tuinstra says Rich is battling dementia and Parkinson’s disease and needs to receive medical care.
“I’m hopeful and I’m really grateful that John’s coming with me because that means a lot,” says Rich. “And he’s going to look after me in Toronto. Like, I don’t know my way around up there.”
The pair have been provided bus tickets by Home Base Housing (HBH) to make the trip.
While Kingston would not usually send an unhoused person to another city, options for Rich have become limited here.
“One of the things that we do get concerned about sometimes is people with pretty high levels of medical requirements who really should be in nursing and retirement homes, we think, who end up on the streets and in the shelter system,” says HBH executive director Tom Greening.
“We try to bring in those health-care services, but it’s often not easy, it’s not integrated, the flow is not good, and in this case, we have a gentleman who has learned that there are facilities in Toronto that provide medical services to persons in a shelter environment and he’s elected that that’s probably a better option for him in the long term.”
Greening says that the housing options in Toronto are a bit better than they are in Kingston, especially for the attention that Rich requires.
“If we could enlist the services of personal support workers within the shelter system, even being shared amongst the different shelters in the city of Kingston, then that would be helpful,” says Greening.
“We would be able to keep people in shelter or have people come to shelter and have people become more successful with their stays there.”
He says that, beyond Rich’s specific case, the biggest challenge in Kingston is the lack of affordable housing options.
“That, combined with the fact that the shelter system is at, or almost at, capacity,” says Greening. “Each day there is often a bed or two available within the system, but we know there are more people that need shelter than there are beds available.
“So we’re all struggling right now to come up with some other options.”
Greening says HBH is working with the city and other partners to do its best to find appropriate options for people.
Upon arrival in Toronto on Monday, Rich and Tuinstra ended up being turned away from Seaton House, the largest homeless shelter in the city.
Rich had hoped to acquire a space there because the facility has a floor specifically for those with medical needs.
The pair were told to take Rich to St. Michael’s Hospital, where workers assigned Rich with a case manager.
Once Rich is settled somewhere, Tuinstra plans to head back to his makeshift home in Kingston.