Golf courses in London, Ont., set to be used as homeless shelters this winter

Two municipal golf courses in London, Ont., are being targeted to house trailers for those experiencing homelessness this winter, part of a revamped winter plan that also includes drop-in spaces and a place to go for those in crisis.

River Road, Fanshawe courses to have trailers by Dec. 1 for those with no place to stay if approved by council

Dozens of people live inside makeshift homes on this floodplain in Wellington Valley Park in London, Ont., last winter. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

There are plans for the municipal River Road and Fanshawe golf courses on the outskirts of London, Ont., to be sites for trailers for those experiencing homelessness this winter, as part of a revamped response for people without a place to escape from the cold. 

"There is no silver bullet to solving homelessness this winter. We are trying to fill in a gap, we're trying to fill a post-COVID reality, where we're seeing more people on our streets," said Kevin Dickins, who runs the city's housing and social services. 

"Last year, we had the first-of-its-kind winter response in the midst of COVID, and we were learning as we went. We have learned a lot of lessons and it would be irresponsible to just roll out the same winter response this year." 

Among those lessons: more drop-in spaces are needed, including at night for those needing to leave the cold for a couple of hours, and that the core isn't necessarily the best place for temporary shelters. 

"We made an assumption last year that the trailers needed to be in the community, but some folks are happy to be away from the public eye. They're good at being isolated and discreet and remote," Dickins told media when announcing the plan, ahead of a public release on the community and protective services agenda on Wednesday. 

Discreet shelters, drop-in beds

Politicians will debate the plan on Tuesday before it goes to full council for approval on Nov. 16. 

The plan has four sites: 

  • Trailers for Indigenous people, with services provided by Atlhosa Family Healing Services, at the River Road Golf Course, which was shut down by the city earlier this year. That's in the far southeast of the city, near Veterans Memorial Parkway, and is on a bus route. Thirty to 32 people can stay here for the winter. 
  • Trailers at Fanshawe Golf Course, where there is no bus service, but shuttles or other transportation will be provided and food can be made on site in the clubhouse. Community agencies will set up shop there to provide immediate wrap-around services and help people get housing. About 30 to 32 people can stay here. 
  • A drop-in space at a to-be-determined location, which is expected to include a 24/7 resting space. It will likely accommodate about 50 people during the day and 40 at night. People can shower if they're staying overnight and get food during the day, but it's not meant as a long-term place to stay. 
  • A stabilization place at 371 Hamilton Rd. run by the Canadian Mental Health Association Thames Valley Addiction and Mental Health Services, open 24/7, with five to 10 crash beds to support people experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis. Referrals will be made by service providers. 

"Last year we didn't have an overnight drop-in space for people to be overnight, not worried about the elements, where they can lock up their stuff and not have to sleep with one eye open," Dickins said.

The temporary winter shelters last year were located on Elizabeth Street and York Street. Some in those neighbourhoods complained about the individuals who were homeless, and some living in the trailers felt watched and wanted a more discreet location. 

"We're making use of temporarily underused city assets this year," said Dickins. 

If approved by city council, the sites would be open by Dec. 1. They would remain open until March 31 except the Fanshawe Golf Course location, which would close March 1. 


  • A previously published version of this story named the location of the overnight resting place as London's downtown YMCA. An error by city staff led to a mistake in the report. On Thursday, the city clarified that an overnight location hasn't been secured yet but will be finalized soon.
    Oct 28, 2021 5:48 PM ET