THUNDER BAY – The end of construction is drawing near and a new beginning for dozens of Salvation Army clients is just around the corner at the newly built Journey to Life Centre.
The $15.5-million, 30,000 square-foot project has entered the final stages of work and executive director Gary Ferguson on Monday said he’s hoping to move into the three-storey facility by month’s end.
The centre takes a holistic approach to homelessness, offering emergency shelter for those in need, longer-term accommodation for those who need it and, drawing on its new name, will help up to 20 people at a time transition from the streets into a home of their own.
The Journey to Life program is unique to Thunder Bay.
Located on the third floor of the Cumberland Street building, it will be tailored to the individual, based on an assessment of what they need to transition back into a successful self-supporting lifestyle, depending on what skills they possess.
“The program will be developed for that individual and it can be anything from literacy to just simple things like learning how to cook, budgeting and different activities,” Ferguson said.
“The person will stay in that program for a year, but in certain cases they may extend that programming, and then they’ll be able to move back into the community with the goals that they wanted.”
It’s targeted at anyone who is looking to make a change for the better. Ferguson said that means not all of their clientele will be a proper fit for the program.
“The key thing is they want change, they want to move toward this particular (goal),” he said. “Currently right now anybody that’s looking to have that change that we’re (already) providing service (to), or with our community partners who we can actually work with that would be a suitable client would be the individuals that we are looking for.”
Ferguson said they’ve already identified about seven or eight people judged to be promising fits for the Journey to Life Program and are looking for about a dozen more.
They’ll be coming to a facility that’s a night-and-day improvement over the current building, located next door and scheduled for demolition to make room for parking and the community garden popular with residents.
“It’s been a long time coming and we are excited,” Ferguson said.
“The clients are excited. It’s something everybody deserves. It’s going to be a great opportunity for individuals in the community. I don’t think words can say, really, what we feel at this time.”
Highlights can be found on every floor, from the more spacious living quarters, to the indoor wellness centre, to the kitchen complete with a separate area for wild-game preparation to the chapel, an architecturally appealing room where religious services and Indigenous ceremonies can be held. The room is also hooked into a state-of-the-art ventilation system, which allows for smudging to take place.
The irony, Ferguson said, is the better they do their jobs, the fewer clients it leaves them moving forward.
It’s actually a good thing, he added
“That’s a good problem that we would actually like to work on,” Ferguson said.
Move-in day is scheduled for Oct. 16. The old building will be torn down on Oct. 21 and the parking lot will be installed between Oct. 26 and Oct. 30. Clients will be given a virtual tour ahead of move-in and the management team and caseworkers will be on hand to help them adjust to their new surroundings.