Thunder Bay

Efforts ongoing to help homeless people out of the cold in Fort Frances, Ont. this winter

Community organizations in Fort Frances, Ont. are working to establish a warming centre for the area's homeless population for the second straight winter.
Community organizations are working to open a warming centre for the homeless population in Fort Frances, Ont. for the second straight winter. (Supplied)

Community organizations in Fort Frances, Ont. are working to establish a warming centre for the area's homeless population for the second straight winter.

The Fort Frances Homeless Committee last year operated an out of the cold centre, the closest thing to an emergency homeless shelter in the Rainy River District.

A 2018 count identified 82 people living homeless in Fort Frances at the time. 

Sandra Weir, the integrated services manager with the Rainy River District Social Services Board, said the plan is to start operating at the beginning of December and continue through March, depending on funding and weather.

"The warming centre is more situational. It's more like a pop up," Weir said. "It's just dealing with (getting people) out of the cold weather, giving people a safe place. At the same time, also offering supports that are required for individuals coming through the door."

The warming centres allow people to come in at night time to get out of the elements, but they are not able to provide cots for sleeping.

"Now an emergency shelter would be more of a permanent solution, and we don't have the funds at this time, or resources, to be able to provide that," Weir said. "Although it is something that the committee is looking at. We're trying to work towards long term, permanent solutions."

Last year, the group operated the warming centre out of the town's volunteer bureau, but that location is no longer available. Officials say food could be served, depending on whether their new space has suitable kitchen space to prepare meals or if donations need to be sought.

Fort Frances Homeless Committee co-chair Jamie Petrin said money and finding a location are challenges, with issues like zoning and fire safety regulations standing as other barriers.

"We have great community partners but when it comes to capital, it becomes a little more difficult," Petrin said.