Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay group raises more than $7K for hotel rooms for homeless

A working group that advocates for homeless and marginalized people in Thunder Bay, Ont., has raised more than $7,500 to cover the cost of emergency hotel stays for people in need of shelter.

People are falling through the cracks despite efforts by city and social services, group says

Members of the working group Warm Places for Winter meet two or three people a week who are in need of shelter, spokesperson Cassie Thornton said. (GoFundMe.com)

A working group that advocates for homeless and marginalized people in Thunder Bay, Ont., has raised more than $7,500 to cover the cost of emergency hotel stays for people in need of shelter.

The city and social services have worked hard to make sure everyone has a place to sleep this winter, but people are still falling through the cracks, said Cassie Thornton, a spokesperson for the group Warm Places for Winter – which is comprised of members of Not One More Death and the Wiindo Debwe Mosewin patrol.

"There were some stories we heard from people that were sent away from various shelters because of the time of night that they had arrived or because they had COVID-19 symptoms and were intoxicated," Thornton said. "For lots of different overlapping reasons, people were at times not able to get shelter. And then those people were sometimes sent to the hospital to get care and then sent away from the hospital."

Thornton's group meets two or three people a week who need a place to sleep, she said, and they wanted a quick fix they could put into action right away.

"One of the things that's been really successful in the past is simply when you see somebody in duress outside in the evening after dark, offering them the chance to sleep in a hotel can be really life changing for them," she said, "even just to have one night in a warm place."

The group set up an online fundraiser using the platform GoFundMe. The $7,500 funding target was arrived at by contemplating the approximate number of people who might need help from the initiative and multiplying it by the $100/night approximate cost of a hotel room and the number of weeks left until April. It also factors in costs to volunteers such as gas for vehicles, and Thornton said she'd like to also be able to provide food for the people they are helping.

In addition to launching the hotel fund as a short-term measure to provide people with shelter, Thornton said her group has grown concerned about the number of times homeless people are sent to the hospital and is trying to come up with a long-term solution to the problem.

"If it's late at night, and they're intoxicated, and if they're intoxicated and Indigenous, it's extremely likely that they'll just be sent away [from the hospital] or they'll be given really minimal care and then sent away, and ... once you end up at the hospital, you're quite far out of town, and people end up having to literally walk back to town," she said.

"[We're] trying to make it clear that the hospital might not always be the kind of cover-all or the best backup for people who are seeking shelter."

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