THUNDER BAY -- Homelessness is a crisis in Thunder Bay and Shelter House needs the city’s help to keep vital programming alive.
Despite warmer temperatures the George Street Shelter is currently full. Starting this fall executive director Patty Hajdu said staff will have no choice but to start admitting people to the 62-bed facility by vulnerability rather than on a first-come-first-serve basis, which she says is awful but necessary.
“We have God moments at times, who gets to live who gets to die,” she told city council Monday night.
Since 2009 the shelter’s operating budget has nearly doubled to $1.8 million because of demand, it now serves an average of 641 meals every day, provincial funding changes and added programming.
That programming, mainly the alcohol management program and the cold weather Street Outreach Service, have been huge successes in the community but might be the first to go if the city can’t nearly double its annual Shelter House contribution to $500,000.
“We know that we’ll be in the same position next year and the years to follow,” Hajdu said. “Our community is in a state of crisis when it comes to homelessness.”
“The board has some hard decisions to make if we cannot get this funding.”
The money would also help make the SOS program run all year. As a four-month winter pilot program it received 934 calls for people who needed help. It also freed up beds at the hospital and detox centre or got those sleeping near storefronts out of the cold.
Coun. Andrew Foulds, who tabled a motion that passed unanimously to fund the program until the request can be considered before next budget season, said the city needs to address the homelessness crisis.
“We can either do nothing and not increase our funding… or we can actually do something,” he said.