New grant a lifeline for managed alcohol program, says shelter director

The head of Shelter House Thunder Bay says without a recently announced grant from the Northwest Local Health Integration Network, the future of the shelter's managed alcohol program would have been uncertain.

The managed alcohol program is changing lives, says Shelter House executive director Gary Mack

Gary Mack is the executive director of Shelter House Thunder Bay. (Amy Hadley )

The head of Shelter House Thunder Bay says without a recently announced grant from the Northwest Local Health Integration Network, the future of the shelter's managed alcohol program would have been uncertain. 

"This is a program that has not been fully funded since its inception, and we'd really come to a place where we had to make some decisions about whether we would be able to keep the program going on an ongoing basis," said Shelter House executive director Gary Mack. 

The managed alcohol program, which provides residents with regular doses of alcohol, along with other supports, is receiving a $185,000 grant from the Northwest Local Health Integration Network, that will keep its doors open until June. 

It's good news, said Mack, for a program that can have a life-changing impact. Mack said there are statistics that demonstrate the benefits of the program, but there are also many anecdotal stories of success. 

For example, over the holidays one of the first residents of the managed alcohol program run by Shelter House Thunder Bay came back for a visit, Mack said. Now employed, she had returned to make a donation.

"So she's somebody that was, at one time, chronically homeless with severe alcohol issues. So that's a terrific success." 

The LHIN will now be assessing the managed alcohol program to determine how such programs can best be run in northwestern Ontario, Mack said.  

He said he's hopeful that it will lead to more permanent funding. 

"It's very cost effective to run managed alcohol programs," Mack said. "My sense is that the LHIN is going to see that, and hopefully they're going to continue to fund us."