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Grand opening of new London Rona stores fundraise for Unity Project

In yet another sign of the severity of the housing crisis in London, Ont., one of the city’s long-established emergency shelters says skyrocketing rents and renovictions have forced some former clients back through their doors.

Unity Project Executive Director Chuck Lazenby told CTV News they’ve been seeing returning faces of people who used their services in the past, and now the high cost of housing has forced them back to the shelter.

“People that we’ve seen housed for a decade or more, we’re starting to see back in emergency shelter because of these sorts of things,” explained Lazenby. “It is very concerning. And for us, it’s certainly making it so our capacity is really quite tested. Not only in our organization, but in our community as a whole,” she said.

According to September Rent Report, the average price of a one bedroom apartment in London in the month of August was $1811.00. That’s down by 2.1 per cent from one year earlier, but out of reach for many low income earners.

A zero bedroom or bachelor apartment averaged $1452, up 11.2 per cent year over year.

“If people can’t afford the rent, then that’s how they experience homelessness. Right? That is the key factor,” said Lazenby.

There is some help on the way for the local charitable organization. At the grand opening for two new Rona stores in London (formerly Lowes), company officials announced the Unity Project as the local recipient of its Home Sweet Home Foundation.

Donations made through the London Rona stores through the month of September will go to the Unity Project.

“We can see it in the results on our streets these days,” said North London Rona store manager Jon Lizmore. “There’s people needing places to live, you can see it driving around our city. So we really wanted to help out some of those agencies.”

“Helping people right now in those emergency shelters, we see an uplift of need,” added Rona Vice President of Human Resources Marc MacDonald. “And we are in a position where we can really help these different charity and community organizations.”

Funds raised through the Home Sweet Home campaign of the RONA Foundation will help the Unity Project pay for security and accessibility upgrades at its Dundas Street site, said Lazenby.

“Putting in automatic door openers on our doors, building a deck in our backyard so it’s wheel chair accessible to be able to go in and out, and providing security lighting and camera installation on our property," he said.

The Unity Project has 38 emergency shelter spaces. In addition, its housing stability program helps 38 individuals obtain and maintain housing. Top Stories

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