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Elizabeth Fry Society continues to grow

The charitable organization works with individuals who are incarcerated and assists individuals with reintegration back into the community, as well as focusing on individuals who are living in the community that are chronically homeless.
Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Kevin Holland (at left), Mayor Ken Boshcoff (second from right), and Lindsay Martin of the Elizabeth Fry Society (far right) were among those celebrating the opening of the transitional house last year. (District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board)

THUNDER BAY – The Elizabeth Fry Society of Northwestern Ontario has a large territory to cover for a small grassroots group.

The charitable organization works with individuals who are incarcerated and assists with reintegration back into the community, as well as focusing on individuals living in the community who are chronically homeless.

Although it’s based in Thunder Bay, the branch’s region spans from the Manitoba-Ontario border to near Timmins.

“The individuals that we serve, we’re able to sort of come in upstream a little bit and provide some supportive safer housing options for folks who are living in the community,” executive director Lindsay Martin said.

“That’s sort of a new venture that we took on in 2021 -- to start more of a supportive housing program, which is relatively low barrier and that’s the first of its kind to support women and gender-diverse people in our community that aren’t experiencing a domestic violence situation.

“We’re really trying to tap into their basic needs to help individuals stabilize and get on the path where they need to be.”

That process was aided in June 2023 by the opening of a seven-unit home on the south side of Thunder Bay.

The home offers 24-hour support for women and gender-diverse people who have been involved in the criminal justice system, who are living in active addiction, experiencing chronic homelessness or exploitation, and those who may be at risk of criminalization.

“We’re just looking to grow that and expand it because we see the need in the community,” Martin said.

“We also see that there is a huge gap in services for the region. So we’re really trying to come in and sort of fill that gap as best we can with the supports that we have available to individuals.

“I think it’s important to note as well that poverty is a huge factor in some of the reasons why folks are incarcerated and the lack of stable housing is another reason why the incarceration numbers are so high.

“We’re really just trying to combat that by providing the resources that folks need to prevent incarceration. That’s really key for us in the work that we are doing right now.”

To help offset the costs with their initiatives, the Elizabeth Fry Society is currently holding a 50/50 raffle, which will see funds go directly to local programming, client care, release kits and outreach efforts.

Tickets for the raffle are only available online and the draw is on May 10 at 3 p.m.

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