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Here's why a $25-million anonymous donation isn’t funding winter shelter beds

A homeless encampment is seen in London, Ont. during the winter in this undated file image. (File) A homeless encampment is seen in London, Ont. during the winter in this undated file image. (File)
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City hall finds itself balancing immediate needs against long-term strategies to address the homelessness crisis.

On Tuesday, city council approved 120 temporary overnight shelter spaces across four locations at a total cost of $3 million.

However, the Cold Weather Response to Homelessness and pre-existing shelters will fall short of accommodating all of London’s estimated 600 high-needs individuals living on the streets.

Mayor Josh Morgan explained that the city won’t be tapping into the $25 million anonymous donation by a London family to open more emergency beds this winter.

“This is situation where we have to do two things at once. We spend the money that council allocated to help people through the cold weather,” Morgan told CTV News. “We also have to stay focussed on our long-term system level response to health and homelessness in our city.”

As well, the donated funds are not held by the City of London.

The London Community Foundation (LCF) has an agreement with the donor family that the money be utilized to fund the long-term Health and Homelessness Response that aims to open up to 15 low barrier service hubs and 600 supportive housing units for high-acuity individuals.

Among its goals is to no longer require temporary short-term winter responses.

“That $25 million is stewarded by the London Community Foundation, and is accessed by anyone using the Health and Homelessness field under the Community Response Plan. That may be the City of London, it may be one of the lead agencies who have already been approved for hubs,” added the mayor.

Earlier this week, the agencies leading the Cold Weather Response said that a sector-wide staffing shortage will be the greatest challenge to opening all 120 spaces before the worst winter weather arrives.

Council is utilizing unspent dollars from other social programs to fund all of the temporary beds that frontline agencies have the space and staff to operate.

Meanwhile, the mayor confirms that the anonymous donation is not sitting unused in a bank account.

“When a donor makes a significant donation such as this, they don’t always just write a cheque,” Morgan said. “In this case, the way the money comes in over time supports the long-term multi-phase plan to try to end people suffering on our streets — permanently.”

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