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Soon to expire municipal funding would close 120-bed homeless shelter and return people to tents


Municipal funding is running out for a temporary shelter program that serves homeless Londoners.

Ark Aid Street Mission began offering 120 overnight beds and about the same number of daytime spaces across four locations last December as the lead agency operating London’s Winter Response to Homelessness.

According to Executive Director Sarah Campbell, over 1,000 different people have accessed the services, with an average utilization rate of 115 per cent.

Thirty people have secured housing and 15 people returned to living arrangements with their families.

However, the funding to operate the winter shelter spaces is set to expire on May 31.

“It is a 100 per cent guarantee that people will be back out on the streets who have made great progress [from the] service and care,” Campbell told CTV News.

About 100 staff who were specially trained to work in the shelters will be laid off and Campbell said there is nowhere else to refer people needing basic services.

“This year it’s different. It’s different because there is nowhere for people,” she explained. “All of the services that have historically existed are not going to be existing this year without some funding.”

A man plays dominoes in a daytime drop-in space operated by Ark Aid Street Mission on May 3, 2024. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)

Council has used one-time dollars left over from its other homelessness and housing programs to fund winter response beds, but The Ark said the community now needs ongoing funding for year-round basic services.

There are an estimated 2,000 Londoners experiencing homelessness, including 600 high-needs individuals.

“Six million dollars this year to deliver the services,” Campbell has calculated. “It takes away the guesswork. Are we doing something this year? What will we do? Where will we do it?”

Campbell said ramping up and winding down winter shelters each year is financially inefficient.

Hiring staff and bringing new locations up to building code standards has become an annual cost for the temporary shelter program.

She estimates a year-round service would save 25 per cent on a monthly basis.

Mayor Josh Morgan recently toured The Ark.

Morgan acknowledged that the May 31 deadline will require the agency to adjust the services it can provide, “I would anticipate that they would run a level of service within the community, and what that support or engagement with the city looks like, has not been decided yet,”

The mayor said London is nearing completion of a long-term Encampment Strategy for supporting the unhoused with basic supports.

However, he admitted the Encampment Strategy won’t be in place by May 31.

“There will be a period of time between the end of the Winter Response where services will contract and we won’t have the Encampment Strategy,” he said. “Nor will [the Encampment Strategy] be ramped up and into fruition because it still needs council approval.”

“This is going to put huge pressure in our police, on our by-law enforcement, waste management, Parks and Recreation. We will pay for it,” warned Campbell about the pending surge of people needing basic supports on June 1.

Most city councillors have recently toured Ark Aid Street Mission and its winter shelter spaces.

Tuesday’s meeting of the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee may be the last opportunity for a council committee to consider the funding request before May 31.

Campbell hopes a councillor will find a way to bring her funding request to the committee, “It is a crisis for our city and it is up to us as citizens to raise our voices for those who can’t be heard.” Top Stories

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