Street Help continues to house homeless, plans to work with Windsor fire following dispute

Fifteen people spent the night at Street Help on Saturday after Windsor fire told the organization it would only temporarily be allowed to act as a shelter.

Windsor fire officials ordered occupants out on Friday at about 7 p.m.

The fire department agreed to let people sleep overnight at the centre Friday on the condition staff undergo a condensed version of fire safety training. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Fifteen people spent the night at Street Help on Saturday after Windsor fire officials told the organization it would only temporarily be allowed to act as a shelter.

Windsor fire officials ordered occupants out on Friday at about 7 p.m.

Hours later, officials agreed to let people stay at the homeless centre as long as staff kept the lights on and doors unlocked. Street Help volunteers said fire officials have not returned over the weekend but they plan to meet with representatives from the department Monday. 

Centre director Christine Wilson-Furlonger said Street Help is looking to work with Windsor Fire and Rescue Services. She said the conversation doesn't have to be a "frightening experience."

"I am more than happy to comply, I want the safest environment for our people ... I think it is just how it happened," she said, in reference to Friday night.

License dispute

Windsor Fire officials said on Friday the building was not licensed as a shelter but as an outreach centre — which does not allow for people to stay overnight.

Fire officials said the department plans to follow up with the centre next week to ensure staff has proper safety and training equipment.

"We don't have to have a license to offer human kindness and a very basic kindness of allowing you to come in and not freeze to death," said Wilson-Furlonger.

Wilson-Furlonger said churches and mosques often open in times of need and restrictions aren't put on those services, she said Street Help is no different.

The rules are there for a reason- Rino Bortolin , Ward 3 councillor 

Councillor speaks

Coun. Rino Bortolin said although he doesn't want to see anyone out in the cold, "the rules are there for a reason."

"At the end of the day, the steps [Windsor fire] took were the right steps for the right reasons," he said.

Bortolin worries about what the outcome would have been like if a fire had started.

However, Wilson-Furlonger said Street Help is working to ensure that protocols are being followed.

"We are working in every way we can ..." said Wilson- Furlonger. "But we can't operate under threats such as unkindness and an injustice to people that are out there on the streets, they need more love than that."