'All services under one roof': New 24/7 shelter opens in St. Thomas, Ont.
A new 24-hour shelter for those experiencing homelessness in St. Thomas, Ont. is set to open Wednesday.
The INN, formerly Inn Out of the Cold St. Thomas-Elgin, announced Tuesday that it will be opening a new facility at 10 Princess Ave.
“We are looking forward with great anticipation to serving our guests at this new location that will allow those using our services to seek shelter, safety and support in one spot instead of having to bundle up each morning and face the elements, moving around the city to the next site to get help,” says Executive Director Lori Fitzgerald.
The INN has operated for almost 12 years at the Central United Church on Wellington Street and was mostly open during the winter. But over the past few years it has become a year-round shelter.
The new location is just steps from Talbot Street in the city's downtown.
For current clients like Derek Preston, it's a game-changer.
"Having that kind of shelter helps with dealing with the anxiety of not being able to have housing," says Preston, who was standing out front of the daytime drop-in centre at 423 Talbot St.
"It helps me deal with not being able to get off the street because it's cold at night."
The INN in St. Thomas, Ont. will be able to sleep 40 people overnight, with potential for more once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
When COVID-19 hit, it highlighted a need for a new space, as while many people sheltered, the homeless were left on the street.
That's when city officials, along with the board of directors of The Inn started looking at potential spaces. With a provincial grant and help from Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek, they were able to purchase the new location.
Inside will not just be a shelter and day-space for clients. It wil also be a hub of services.
"Mental health and addictions support, health care, harm reduction services, practical help like identification replacement and assistance with housing and Ontario Works applications are some of the benefits that will come to those seeking help at The INN," says Fitzgerald.
The St. Thomas Police Service will also use the facility as a work space and central location for their Mobile Outreach Support (MOS) team.
"The partnership that we have within the Inn and Indwell, the number of places that people have shelter to lay down at night, be comfortable and have some wraparound services through (the Canadian Mental Health Association) and our MOS team, this is a step in the right direction," says Chris Herridge, St. Thomas' chief of police.
"We want to work with our community and not just be a police service in this community, but also help people that are in crisis that are suffering from mental health, homelessness, poverty and addictions to find hope and be productive members of our society."
One of the biggest issues for the homeless population in St. Thomas is the location of all the services.
The Inn out of the Cold was more than a kilometre away from the Grace Cafe (which serves breakfast to those in need) and the daytime warming centre.
The INN in St. Thomas, Ont. will be a daytime warming centre with multiple services under one roof in the facility.
"The guests that are staying at the shelter now, will be able to get all three meals a day here," says Fitzgerald. "They'll no longer have to go wandering around the city, looking for food and different services then shuffle back again at night."
Preston is one of the people who would wake up and make their way around the city throughout the day.
"I do have to walk across town to get a meal, and that's tough when you don't have a job," says Preston.
"I want to get off the street and get myself into a nice house. But having three guaranteed meals a day would be very supportive."
The INN will be able to house 40 people per night, with potential for more once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
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