Windsor

Not just food, clothing and shelter — Downtown Mission needs to move to provide more services

About 40 people turned up to get their questions answered at an open house town hall at the Downtown Mission Monday. Another open house will be held next week.

'Some days all the seats are taken and people are lined up waiting to get in'

About 40 people turned up to get their questions answered at an open house town hall at the Downtown Mission Monday. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

The Downtown Mission's executive director said community response to their new home has been mostly positive so far.

About 40 people stopped by an open house Monday night to learn about the Mission's plans for moving to the central branch of the Windsor Public Library.

Developer Peter Valente is one of people who have expressed concerns about the new location. Valente is building condos in the neighbourhood and was worried about homeless people "milling around."

Executive director Ron Dunn met with Valente early on to hear his concerns.

"Everybody has the same right," said Dunn. "We need to find ways to coexist regardless of your financial ability."

His conversation with Valente included putting the entrance at the back of the building. Dunn hoped the town hall would help answer questions other people might have.

"The big question is what does the downtown look like without the mission there?" said Dunn. 

Executive director Ron Dunns says it's easy to see why a new building warrants spending more than $9 million. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

The Mission has turned to "all three" levels of government for funding, said Dunn.

The building itself cost $3.6 million. It will cost about $5.5 million more to retrofit the library into what it needs to be for the mission's purposes.

"It's easy, if you've been to the mission," to see why a new building warrants more than $9 million, said Dunn.

"We're no longer food, clothing and shelter," said Dunn. "We're offering all kinds of added services. That requires a facility to do it in."

Rukshini Ponniah-Goulin said the kitchen serves more than 400 hot meals each day, in addition to helping with the food bank and sanctuary programs — that brings the total meals served each day to about 900.  (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Rukshini Ponniah-Goulin, director of development for The Downtown Mission, said their current building is in a very residential neighbourhood — but that a lot of the people who live in the apartment buildings near their new home come to the mission for different services.

"Our dining hall is small, meant to only hold about 100 people for any given serving," said Ponniah-Goulin. "We are now seeing more than 200 people at some of our lunches. Some days all the seats are taken and people are lined up waiting to get in."

Ponniah-Goulin said the kitchen serves more than 400 hot meals each day, in addition to helping with the food bank and sanctuary programs — that brings the total meals served each day to about 900. 

There's another town hall meeting on Monday for Windsorites to get their questions answered about the move. 

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