How London, Ont. plans to use remote golf courses as winter homeless shelters
With cold weather approaching, City Hall has finally unveiled its new plan to address unsheltered homelessness this winter.
Similar to last winter, construction trailers will be converted into heated living quarters, but the locations will be much more remote, requiring on-site resources and transportation options for residents.
“We know that where we were located last year had many benefits, but it also had many detractors,” admits Kevin Dickins, deputy city manager of Social and Health Development at City Hall.
Currently, about 120 people are living ‘unsheltered’ in tents or makeshift shelters in London.
The three-pronged strategy will provide 100 to 105 overnight spaces between December and March:
- Drop-in Spaces (0-8 hrs)
- Stabilization Spaces (24-72 hrs)
- Winter Shelter (up to 4 months)
Two temporary winter shelters housing 30-35 people each will be located at municipal golf courses.
Atlohsa Family Healing Services will operate the shelter for Indigenous people in trailers at the former River Road Golf Course near Veteran’s Memorial Parkway.
A rapid rehousing shelter for 30-35 people will also utilize construction trailers and the clubhouse at Fanshawe Golf Course in the city’s northeast corner.
“It’s not all that inviting to be homeless on main street London,” explains Dickins, when asked about the remote locations. “We know there is a group of people experiencing homelessness who want spaces that are a little more discreet than last year, more private.”
The temporary shelter spaces will operate until March 31, except for Fanshawe Golf Course which will close March 1, 2022.
“We are not bussing the homeless out of London, by any stretch of the imagination, we are creating a safe place for people to go,” asserts Dickins.
And while neither location is directly served by sidewalks or bike lanes, the city’s Director of Housing Stability Services Craig Cooper explains that last winter most residents remained in place.“We did not see a lot of individuals specifically leave the space during the day or even overnight,” Cooper says.
London Transit bus service is available at the River Road Golf Course, but does not reach Fanshawe Golf Course.
Both sites will also offer a shuttle service for residents.
“They are not stuck out there. There are resources coming to them. There are options coming to get them into the community so they won’t have to walk.”
The Winter Homelessness Response will also offer shorter stays at more central locations.
The YMCA on Waterloo Street will offer a mix of day and night shelter spaces at a new drop-in this winter.
The Canadian Mental Health Association will offer five to 10 stabilization spaces on Hamilton Road for people requiring mental health or addiction treatment as an alternative to emergency rooms or jail.
The $1.9 million winter homelessness response is funded by the provincial and federal governments.