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Council to consider extra funds to keep homeless drop-ins open — but some neighbours say no

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Just weeks before funding to operate a pair of homeless drop-in facilities expires, city councillors will hold a special meeting to consider a short-term extension.

A special meeting of the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee (SPPC) has been called for Tuesday morning to consider a recommendation by city staff to provide one-time funding to London Cares (up to $139,600) and Safe Space London (up to $129,000) to continue providing basic drop-in services for Londoners experiencing homelessness until May 31.

“Recognizing the original intent was to accommodate a March 31, 2024 wind-down, it is evident that a need remains, and these services are making a difference,” reads the staff report.

In February, CTV News London revealed that London Cares will have to close the daytime drop-in at 602 Queens Ave. where each day 50 to 75 people take a shower, do laundry and address other basic needs.

The Winter Response funding that expires March 31 also covers the cost of on-site security.

A meal program offered by the Sisters of St. Joseph’s would continue at 602 Queens Ave.

The same deadline is faced by Safe Space London that provides 15 daytime drop-in spaces for women and an equal number of overnight spaces at 679 Dundas St. in Old East Village.

“I’m glad that the report is coming through, and I do hope we get approval,” said Coun. David Ferreira.

But not everyone is onboard.

A letter from the Midtown Community Organization (MCO) reads, “We asked that funding for London Cares drop-in services not be provided.”

Midtown is the core area neighbourhood between downtown London and Old East Village between Queens Avenue and the CN Rail tracks.

The MCO’s letter cites the concentration of frontline service agencies within a kilometre of Dundas and Adelaide streets, “The neighbourhood is now dealing with a higher increase of vandalism, garbage, open drug use, and anti-social behaviours displayed by individuals.”

“As Midtowners, we really can not be expected to take on anymore of the city’s social problems. We are already doing our part to help the city. It is now time for other parts of the city to do theirs,” the letter concludes.

“The whole city needs to be involved in the approach, and that’s what we see with the Whole of Community System Response [to Homelessness],” explained Coun. Ferreira. “However, we don’t have anything to hold us over in the meantime, [so] we do need to extend the funding.”

The Whole of Community Response to Homelessness is a council-approved strategy to create up to 600 highly-supportive housing units and up to 15 low-barrier service hubs to address the current crisis.

After more than a year, just two hubs have opened.

According to the report there are currently approximately 40 encampments in city parks (down from 102 in November), but city staff predict the number of Londoners living unsheltered will climb again this summer.

If council agrees to extend the funding until the end of May, services would continue until approximately the same time that council receives details about a new citywide encampment strategy.

“It’s an all-weather strategy that would hold us over until we get the full Whole of Community Response up and running,” added Ferreira.

In 2023, the London Cares drop-in program was visited 20,564 times by 1,021 different individuals who received:

  • 68,877 meals provided by the Sisters of St. Joseph’s meal program
  • 3,343 showers
  • 1,168 loads of laundry

From January through November 2023, Safe Space supported unsheltered women with:

  • 3,728 washroom visits
  • 1,303 loads of laundry
  • 7,279 times food was provided
  • 7,303 visits for basic needs

The special meeting of SPPC will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. 

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