People experiencing homelessness weigh in on Windsor's shelter issues

Kirk Donald is among dozens of people living at the city's temporary emergency shelter. Like many of the people there, Donald's had to pick up and resettle a few times in the last few weeks.

The city opened its emergency shelter last month

Kirk Donald says staying at the city's emergency shelter has been good, but he wishes he had more freedom to leave. (Talish Zafar/CBC)

Kirk Donald is among dozens of people living at the city's temporary emergency shelter.

Like many of the people there, Donald had to pick up and resettle a few times in the last few weeks as the city, Downtown Mission and local health unit have been at odds over how to best handle a COVID-19 outbreak among the region's homeless population. 

While he said life at the temporary shelter — located at Windsor's International Training and Aquatic Centre — has been good, with staff treating him well, he doesn't like that his freedom is restricted. 

"If I was at the library I get to leave whenever I want, come back whenever I want," Donald said. "We have curfew ... and we have smoke breaks at different hours of the day and night, but at the same time we only get a 20 minute smoke break and we can't make it to the store in time if we wanted to." 

Rules have been put in place at the shelter to ensure that the residents staying there are COVID-free, the city told CBC News. 

WATCH: People talk about their experience at the aquatic centre

Here are some of the people staying at the city's temporary emergency shelter

2 years ago
Duration 2:39
People outside of Windsor's International Training and Aquatic Centre talk about what it's been like to live there.

Donald is one of several others who sought shelter at 850 Ouellette Avenue, a former city library, this past week.

The site was reopened by executive director of the Downtown Mission Ron Dunn, who said that people were being turned away from the city's emergency shelter and found themselves with no where else to go. 

Dunn's reopening of the former library disobeyed an order issued by the health unit back in February that required him to close his locations and stop taking in new clients in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 among Downtown Mission clients. 

The city and health unit expressed frustration at Dunn's actions earlier this week, with the city saying in a statement that what he's doing is "counterproductive to the paramount goal of stopping the spread of COVID-19 throughout the community." 

On Thursday, Dunn said he's agreed to close the site at 850 Ouellette Ave.

'It's a part of life right now'

Despite the back and forth between the Mission, City of Windsor and health unit, those experiencing homelessness told CBC News that they just need a place to stay. 

"It doesn't really matter to me, at least it's a place off the streets," said Maxwell Meehan. 

Meehan said he got placed in the city's Isolation and Recovery centre for a number of days before being moved to the aquatic centre. 

He said the emergency shelter is "nice" and that there's enough space and meals. 

Maxwell Meehan says things have been going well at the aquatic centre and that he's just happy to be off the streets. (Talish Zafar/CBC)

When asked how he feels about being shuffled around and the uncertainty around what spaces are available, Meehan said,  "I'm okay with it. It's part of life right now." 

Kevin Sartori also told CBC News that he went from quarantining in the hotel to living in the aquatic centre. 

He said everyone's been helpful and he's enjoying his stay at the aquatic centre. 

"I was surprised at how good they treat you, he said. "It's nice and clean and the people are very polite."

He added that it hasn't been a difficult process. 

"They've always been helpful. Any time I ask, I knew exactly where I should go, everything has been fine, I can't complain about anything really."