Not enough shelter for families in Windsor as demand spikes

The City of Windsor is noticing more demands for family shelter, but the need is difficult to manage.

Shelter that helps refugee claimants is asking people to help by hosting new arrivals

The Matthew House on Drouillard Road has helped 10 times more people this year than last. (Google Maps)

Two refugee families needed a place to stay and phoned the Matthew House Wednesday, but there was nothing available.

Mike Morency, executive director for the shelter that helps refugee claimants, said not only was the shelter full, but their partner shelters and rooms in city motels that are used as emergency shelter were also full.

"We really had to juggle to make arrangements so that these families were not on the street, during that snowy Thursday night," said Morency.

The organization found a place for those families as a temporary solution, with one needing to vacate by Friday.

Morency said anyone who would like to help out can apply to Matthew House to be a host for a refugee family for two to four months.

Expectation vs. reality

This year, Matthew House helped 140 people — 10 times the number it did last year. Currently, there are 70 people using the shelter space at the organization.

That surge has been noticed by the City of Windsor.

Jelena Payne, community development and health commissioner with the city, said they are seeing an increase in shelter demands specifically for families.

Both Morency and Payne said that Windsor's perception of having affordable housing makes it an attractive location for refugees.

Mike Morency says a nightmare scenario would be not being able to find housing for families that need it. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

However, reality looks a bit different.

"I think there's a perception outside of Windsor and people are hearing about this through word-of-mouth and coming, expecting to have shelter and be housed," said Payne.

"And it's proving to be a little bit more of a challenge."

With high demands and a low vacancy rate for affordable housing, it puts stress on the housing system.

For a permanent solution, Morency hopes the government will step in when it comes to affordable housing.

"A nightmare scenario for me is we reach that point where there is no juggling, there is nothing that can be done, and here it is, the week before Christmas," said Morency.

With files from Chris Ensing