Greater Sudbury looks to modernize shelter system

A review of housing and services available for homeless people in Sudbury is underway.

Review of housing and homelessness plan underway

An update on services available for vulnerable citizens will be presented to members of the Community Services Committee by December. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

A review of housing and services available for homeless individuals in Sudbury is underway.

The strategy was created in 2013 to come up with programs to support the most vulnerable in the city.

The Emergency Shelter System Review was presented to the city's community services committee Monday night. It makes recommendations for a modernized shelter system.

Gail Spencer, the coordinator of shelters and homelessness, says much has been accomplished since the creation of the plan, including moving towards a housing first program and creating a low barrier shelter.

"Our goal of emergency shelter or our homeless servicing system is that we will prevent homelessness first, ensure that emergency shelter is available when required, but always accommodate people to move quickly into affordable, safe and suitable housing," she said.

Spencer adds one of the most important aspects of the review is the diversion program.

"We do see a number of shelter users who come in and use our shelter once for a short time period, are assisted with last month's rent deposit and get housed and don't end up back in our shelters again," she said.

"We'd like to set up a system where they actually never have to come into our shelter, we can support them before they even get there."

They will be working with community partners to try and find a solution for men's emergency shelters in the city before New Life Centre closes in May, says Gail Spencer, Coordinator of Shelters and Homelessness (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Last week, The Salvation Army announced it is closing its New Life Centre shelter in downtown Sudbury. That's a men's shelter which currently accommodates 20 clients. Councillor Deb McIntosh asked Spencer what options would be available for single fathers if they need an emergency shelter.

Spencer says in that situation, the man would be accommodated by Cedar Place, which is also run by The Salvation Army and helps women, parents and children.

"They would put them up at a hotel," Spencer said. "So a single dad with children or a two parent family … would be accommodated through a hotel they have a contract with. But the Salvation Army staff still provides food and the housing support for that family."

A question was also asked about what programs are in place to help transgender people.

"Although that has been one of our challenges in terms of accessibility, especially when we have a men's shelter and then a women's shelter," Spencer said.

"Certainly the youth shelter does much better than that because they provide for all genders within the same facility. That is one area I think we can improve on."

City staff will consult with those agencies that run the shelters now, and will come up with a plan to improve shelter services and help people before they need to use a shelter.

Staff will report back to the Community Services Committee by December.

With files from Jamie-Lee McKenzie


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