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After more than a decade of waiting, Charles Morris has accomplished his mission to find Wequedong Lodge a permanent home.
“This is a dream we’ve had for a long time,” Morris, the executive director of the lodge, said Thursday.
“It’s a great sense of relief not only for me but for our employees but also our board members.”
The 110-bed facility on Balmoral Street will be used to provide lodging and supports for people living in remote, northern, fly-in First Nation communities. Many who arrived to stay at the former lodge on Archibald Street had to be put up at a mini hotel.
Morris said at most they could see 140 people coming to Thunder Bay to use their services, but more than 100 of those visiting would have to be moved to a hotel because of the amount of beds they had available.
With the addition of the new beds, Wequedong will be able to operate primarily out of one facility.
“In our strategic planning it identified two priorities,” he said. “One was to attain a single building and the second priority we had was program diversification once we got the single building. Obviously, being a relatively smaller organization with scarce financial resources it has taken us this long to have obtained our objective to get a single building.”
Morris said future plans will be to accommodate both the patient and their families.
Sylvia Maracle, chair of the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services Corporation, said when they heard that some First Nation community members had to stay in hotels, which they thought that wasn’t beneficial to their healing.
She added that they've provided nearly $3 million to Wequedong to help them establish the new facility.
“It’s fabulous,” Maracle said. “I can imagine if you have to leave your community for medical reasons how shocking it must be. I think there’s a sense of community here.
“This is an economic driver for Thunder Bay. People come in and look for services and have a meal out and use transportation. So it’s a win, win. It’s an environment where we can get along.”
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