Thunder Bay to study Shelter House plan

A councillor at a Monday night city council meeting says he is against keeping a Shelter House residence for chronic alcoholics in Thunder Bay's south core, for fear of creating a 'ghetto'.

City council asks administration to look into giving homeless shelter a deal on vacant building

Thunder Bay's Shelter House, a community group that helps people in need, wants to purchase this city-owned building on Donald Street — for less than the asking price of $249,000 — to expand its treatment program for those struggling with alcohol. (CBC)

A councillor at Monday night’s city council meeting says he is against keeping a Shelter House residence for chronic alcoholics in the south core.

Joe Virdiramo said he supports the concept of the program that provides controlled doses of alcohol to people with severe addictions, but feels Thunder Bay’s Shelter House should spread its programs across the city.

He made the statement after the shelter asked council to look at selling the group the old Emergency Medical Services headquarters on Donald Street for below market value.

"I don't want this facility in this location," said Virdiramo, who was the only councillor to vote against considering the sale.

"I feel that we're creating an area where there is an overabundance of social services in this area," Virdiramo said. "We may be creating a ghetto."

Shelter director says program saves city money 

But Shelter House executive director Patty Hajdu told council it's the ideal location as they don't have to stretch their administration across the city. The building would also allow the shelter to increase the number of spaces available in the program.

Hajdu said it's much cheaper to house people with addictions in a managed program, but difficult to pinpoint savings. Before the program started, some of the clients were in the emergency room twice a day, she noted.

"And this is always the challenge with programs like this, because everybody's saving a little money," Hajdu said.

"[For example,] Thunder Bay Police Services are being able to re-allocate their resources to perhaps more appropriate calls, or different calls."

Councillors, with the exception of Virdiramo, approved the concept and asked Thunder Bay administration to look into the matter.

The Donald Street building, which is currently listed at $249,000, is owned by the city.