London

London's Mission opens 10 new beds for men in dire need

The Men's Mission is so overcrowded it's been forced to open 10 new, temporary overflow beds to deal with high demand.

There's been an increased demand at shelters around the city, advocates say

Gordon Russell is the director of shelters at Mission Services of London. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC News)

The Men's Mission is so overcrowded it's been forced to open 10 new, temporary overflow beds to deal with high demand. 

And after a difficult year, there's a concern that the emergency shelter system will continue to be stretched through the winter months. 

"They're at the door and they're saying, 'I can't go back to where I came from,' or 'I've been sleeping on the street for the last three or four days.' They are in immediate need," said Gordon Russell, the director of shelters for Mission Services of London. 

"The other alternative is that they are physically out on the street." 

The temporary beds will operate for 16 weeks. They opened at the beginning of the year.  

The Men's Mission was at capacity almost every day last year. The average daily occupancy at the Mission for 2018 was 103 per cent, Russell said. Those numbers usually go up from January to March. 

The Mission, which is for single men, has 111 emergency shelter beds, plus 10 overflow beds. They've already been used three or four nights since the beginning of January. 

The temporary overflow beds will stop operating in April.

Family shelter at 200% capacity

A year of increased demand also forced the Rotholme Women's and Family Shelter, operated by Mission Services of London, to shut down a program that put overflow families in hotels and motels at the end of 2018. 

"What's extraordinarry is the amount of people who came. We've been very, very, very busy. At certain points we hit 200 per cent occupancy," he said. 

"We have 20 rooms in shelter, that represents 20 families." 

Another 20 families were living in motels and hotels. 

Russell said the challenge on the family side and the men's side is safe, affordable housing, which advocates have said repeatedly is lacking.

"We need to rethink how we give income support to families and single people so they're able to find housing within the market," Russell said.  

"I think when you work in an emergency shelter, you're looking to help people find permanent housing," Russell said.

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