Some Thunder Bay homeless now out in the cold as program funding ends

Temperatures in Thunder Bay, Ont., are still dropping below freezing at night, but ten fewer homeless people have a warm place to sleep, because funding ended at the end of March for the Out of the Cold program at Grace Place.

The Out of the Cold program at Grace Place ended at the end of March

Grace Place was home to a ten-bed Out of the Cold program this winter, thanks to a seed grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. It's still cold outside at night, but that funding ended on Mar. 31. (CBC News)

Temperatures in Thunder Bay, Ont., are still dropping below freezing at night, but some homeless people are now out in the cold, because funding ended at the end of March for ten shelter beds at Grace Place.

The beds were a refuge for people who couldn't access the city's other shelters, sometimes due to conflicts with staff or other residents.

Some of the people displaced from Grace Place might have found temporary shelter with friends or other agencies, said Bonnie Krysowaty, a social researcher with the Lakehead Social Planning Council, but not all of them have some place else to go. 

"It's doubtful that folks have actually acquired permanent housing with enough supports to guarantee a successful housing situation, so I imagine that some of them will also be outdoors and sleeping outside," Krysowaty said.

Staff and volunteers at Grace Place tried to get care packages together for those who could no longer sleep at the facility, she added.  

The 10-bed Out of the Cold program was a pilot project funded by an Ontario Trillium Foundation seed grant, and that funding ran out at the end of the fiscal year, Krysowaty said. 

"Bureaucracy plays a role, definitely, in funding programs like this," she said.

"This is a concern for people in the north ... as compared to southern Ontario," she added.  "There are some major differences because of the geography, because of the climate, because of the remoteness. So we definitely need to keep those things in mind and realize that ... when programs are funded that they're funded properly and appropriately for the demographic that they're serving." 

The LSPC is now applying for funding to extend the program for several more years, Krysowaty said.

Ultimately though, she said the real solution to homelessness is to develop programs that help people find and keep long-term housing.