Kitchener men's shelter looking for new home, funding so they can continue to serve homeless 24/7

House of Friendship men's shelter has been piloting a shelter model that allows men to stay 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It has benefited the men using the service greatly, according to organizers. But to keep the model going they'll need funding and a new facility by the end of the month.

'The participants are really thriving for the first time in a long time,' says Jessica Bondy

Jessica Bondy with the House of Friendship has seen the benefits a 24-7 shelter has had in the men the organization supports. They want to keep the new model going, but they'll need a new location at the end of the month. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

Allowing men who are experiencing homelessness to stay and access supports at a temporary shelter 24 hours a day, seven days a week has led to fewer overdoses and problems, staff with House of Friendship in Kitchener say.

The men's shelter moved into a Kitchener hotel in March and shifted from an overnight model to piloting a 24-hour model that incorporates primary care and other service and supports on site.

Jessica Bondy, director of housing services with House of Friendship, said the overnight model only provided the basics: a mattress to sleep on, a warm meal and community connection through shelter staff. 

"The overnight shelter that we came from, [the men] were able to check in around dinner time and then by eight or nine in the morning, they needed to leave and move on throughout the day," she said.

Since moving to the 24-hour model, the men can stay and have access to around the clock supports.

"They could have both their physical health needs met through out primary care clinic, but also have their housing needs met so that we can help them continue to progress and move to permanent housing," she said.

'There is no going back'

At least 18 men have been able to find housing since the shift to a new shelter model, Bondy said. 

Incident reports have also gone down by more than 40 per cent, overdose rates have dropped by 50 per cent even though the shelter nearly doubled its capacity from serving 51 men to 97.

Shelter staff say they also had five referrals to residential treatment centres, the same number of referrals they normally see within a six-month period.

"The difference in the men from the middle of March ... to where we're at now is a night and day difference," Bondy said. "The participants are really thriving for the first time in a long time."

But to keep the model going, organizers have to secure a new location for September when the partnership with the hotel is expected to end.

Bondy said reverting back to the overnight model would be a "horrific step back."

"There's no going back when it comes to supporting people who are homeless in our community," she said.

For now, staff are working with the region, local partners and speaking to local MPPs and MPs to ensure the model continues.

"We're doing everything we can to find an alternative location," Bondy said.


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