City pitches in $128K in emergency funding for 2 Hamilton women's shelters

The city will pitch in $128,000 in emergency funding to help two shelters for homeless women keep the doors open. But some lamented a system that makes it necessary.

'How do we say no to preventing people from being homeless? How do you sleep at night?'

The city is providing $128,000 in emergency support to two YWCA programs that help women get out of the cold during the winter. (Photographee.eu/Shutterstock)

The city will pitch in $128,000 in emergency funding to keep the doors open at two shelters for homeless women. But some lamented a system that makes it necessary.

Hamilton city council voted Wednesday to pitch in with last-minute money for Carole Anne's Place and Willow's Place, two projects that get women indoors in the winter. Willow's Place is a Mission Services daytime drop-in shelter, while Carole Anne's Place is a YWCA-run overflow shelter for women who are homeless, operating from December to March.

The shelters don't have a secure, ongoing method of funding, said Paul Johnson, general manager of healthy and safe communities. Without new money, they wouldn't be able to open their doors this winter.

Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, moved to provide the money. But the city shouldn't have to do that, he said. Organizations often come forward and ask the city for emergency money to continue their good work. It's not the city's responsibility, Merulla said, but council looks bad when it says no.

"Far too often, we're cornered to make a decision because (the organizations) know if we make a decision to the contrary, we're going to subject to public wrath," Merulla said during the meeting. 

Afterward, he said the city has to do it in this case. "How do we say no to preventing people from being homeless?" he said. "How do you sleep at night?

But these organizations need secure ongoing funding from the province, he said, so the city isn't cornered. "It's not good management to have someone all the sudden come in at the eleventh hour and say 'we need a quarter of a million dollars?' It's not good governance."

All but Coun. Terry Whitehead, who wanted the funding to come from his Ward 14 area rating money, voted for the emergency cash. The initial ask was $228,000, but Johnson said some of the city's "health partners" have stepped in to provide $100,000. He wouldn't elaborate Wednesday on who they are, but said the information was forthcoming.

Overflowing shelter system

Nrinder Nann, Ward 3 councillor, said the city has no choice but to step up with the money.

"Our shelter system is overflowing," she said, "and women specifically are being turned away in our colder months."

Carole Anne's Place, which serves about 260 women, offers "a safe and warm place to rest for women during Hamilton's coldest winter months," YWCA Hamilton says on its website. It also provides access to withdrawal management service, meals, shelter placement help and winter clothing.

Carole Anne's Place gets funding support from Out of the Cold and the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). LHINs, however, are in a state of transition as they await a new system rolled out by the provincial PC government.

Tom Jackson, Ward 6 councillor, supported the funding request, but echoed Merulla's sentiment.

"It's simply not fair to the municipality to be a very last resort," he said.


About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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