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Shelter House ends SOS program over lack of funds

The Shelter House's SOS van will no longer patrol Thunder Bay's streets offering support to the homeless, with the organization citing a lack of sustainable funding.

THUNDER BAY – A program providing street outreach services to Thunder Bay residents who are homeless or vulnerably housed has been cancelled over a lack of sustainable funding.

The Shelter House announced Thursday it will no longer operate its Street Outreach Service (SOS) program, which saw outreach workers patrol the city in a van, offering supplies, transportation, and other support to those living on the street, and responding to calls from the public involving non-violent incidents.

That has taken pressure off other emergency responders including police, fire, and EMS, the Shelter House said.

However, executive director Cal Rankin said in a statement that despite the program’s clear benefits, the organization could no longer afford to run it.

“In recent years the funding for SOS Services has declined significantly, pressing us to look seriously at our priorities,” he said. “It is for this reason that we have decided that we must focus on our core programming of sheltering and feeding to ensure the integrity and quality of these programs.

“People stranded on our streets is a significant indicator of a much larger problem of homelessness and a shortage of affordable housing that is accepting and meets the specific needs of this population,” he added.

The program’s work has been recognized multiple times by the city's Community Safety Awards.

However, the Shelter House has long struggled to secure ongoing funding.


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