Windsor

'Leap of faith' homeless navigator program deemed a success by Downtown Mission, WRH

After six months in action, the people in charge of the Homeless Navigator program think it's been a success. 

Referrals have been to a wide array of programs in Windsor-Essex

After six months in action, the people in charge of the Homeless Navigator program think it has been a success.  (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

After six months in action, the people in charge of the Homeless Navigator program think it's been a success. 

According to the Downtown Mission's executive director Ron Dunn, the program is working better than they imagined it would. 

"We've been able to help so many people in a new way," said Dunn. 

The program sees two "navigators" — trained social work professionals — spend two weeks on and two weeks off, working in the emergency departments of Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH) to transfer people who need a different kind of care to the appropriate organizations. 

"We let the guest or the patient define success," said Dunn. "What does it look like for them?"

Still, in terms of sheer numbers, the program has helped 210 different people. 

According to the Downtown Mission's executive director Ron Dunn, the navigator program is working better than they imagined it would.  (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"That's a lot of people who are being seen ... and not everyone is ready to accept help, but when they are ready, that's a trip they don't make back into the emergency department," said Dunn. 

Dunn describes it as a "leap of faith" taken by both the hospital and the mission. 

"The two teams working together, we're great together," said Dunn. "I think we're providing incredible results."

The Downtown Mission received $120,000 in funding from the LHIN to put the program in action. 

According to WRH, each emergency department visit could cost up to $1,000 — which means the program has paid for itself. 

"There's a lot of patients who present with social issues because they have no where else to go ... As medical staff we weren't aware of what was available," said Jeff Theriault, operations manager of WRH's Ouellette Campus emergency department.

Jeff Theriault, operations manager at WRH's Ouellete Campus emergency department, says hospital staff didn't realize which resources were available. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Referrals have made been to a wide array of programs in Windsor-Essex, including:

  • Central Housing Registry.
  • The Downtown Mission.
  • The Salvation Army.
  • Victoria Manor.
  • Brentwood Recovery Home.
  • House of Sophrosyne.
  • Windsor Life Centre.
  • Windsor Essex Community Health Centre.

Other referrals have been to art therapy and bereavement programs, as well as addiction counselling programs. 

"The navigator can connect with them right at the time of crisis," said Theriault. "It helps with the burden on the system."

"It's a lot of intervention ... they don't have to go back and forth," said Dunn.

Dunn hopes the program will be able to expand into other programs and other floors of the hospital. At the end of the day, however, he just wants to keep doing what they're doing.

"We just need to continue."

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