2012-09-24 at 19:46
Major Mervyn Halvorsen of the Thunder Bay Salvation Army speaks to council Monday night.
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The Salvation Army of Thunder Bay is facing a dire crisis, says Major Mervyn Halvorsen.
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Their Cumberland Street headquarters is crumbling around them, and will have to be replaced within the next decade or the city could wind up with one less men’s shelter as well as the other programs offered by the international charity. The facility has 42 beds at present, with the ability to add three more in peak times.
Halvorsen on Monday gave city council a heads-up, noting he doesn’t have a specific dollar ask at this time, but will be turning to the city at some point to help cover the cost of either a new facility or a renovated existing building.
“We cannot do it alone,” Halvorsen told council in a brief deputation.
The organization is leaning toward a new building, one that might allow it to offer expanded services to the community, including addiction and detox for men and women, corrections services for women, women’s emergency, family, youth and no-barrier shelters and transitional housing.
Halvorsen said it’s simply too cost prohibitive to renovate the existing building, which has housed the Salvation Army for the past 41 years.
The building is much older than that, he pointed out, noting it was a hotel prior to the Salvation Army taking it over four decades ago, and was once owned by the railroad.
“It’s a very old building and there are other issues that we have to constantly keep on top of to maintain the building open. That alone is taking a lot of money, which takes money away from ongoing programming and what we can actually do for the people,” he said.
“The purpose of coming to city council tonight is to give them a heads up that we are in dire straits. We do need to move ahead, or else if we don’t, the doors will close.”
His timeline to be in a new – or new-to-them – facility is within the next five to eight years. The current building, which is actually five separate buildings pieced together, is facing major plumbing problems and the prospect of having to rip up a terrazzo floor to fix them. The foundation is also cracking.
And, Halvorsen said, he’s been warned that digging into those problems will likely uncover even costlier repairs.
They simply can’t afford it, he said, noting a capital fundraising campaign, private donors and help from the Salvation Army’s national governing body will likely be needed to ensure a smooth transition into a new facility. A budget has yet to be set, he added.
Council questioned Halvorsen briefly after his deputation, offering plenty of suggestions of where he might turn for help, also trying to pin down a dollar amount he might come to the city for down the road.
None suggested the help won’t be coming, though none was officially offered either.
Coun. Aldo Ruberto sympathized with the situation the organization is facing.
“I have been to your facility and I don’t know how you do it,” Ruberto said. “I certainly see the need is long overdue.”
In addition to the shelter, the Salvation Army operates a nightly soup van to feed the hungry and has played a central role in providing relief to victims of the May 28 flood and sewage back-up disaster that struck Thunder Bay.
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