March 3 marked the city’s closure of the Hope For Sudbury 24-hour warming station.
I walked in last night to hear women hand drumming, to a number of people mingling with the clients, snacks set out and an overall atmosphere of warmth and love. Mixed within it, however, a feeling of hopelessness and discouragement because it would be the last night HFS would provide 20 clients with a space to sleep and to keep their belongings.
There are a few other shelters in the city and an overnight warming station, so what makes HFS different?
They have access to changing their clothes and shoes or boots as needed. There are snacks and beverages available throughout the day. There are NA meetings, prayer groups and drumming throughout the week.
There’s a table with art supplies, puzzles, books and a TV. They don’t have to leave by 8 a.m. with all their personal belongings, nor do they have to wait till 10 p.m. to get in.
From what I’ve seen, the staff in all centres and shelters care, but the limited hours provide less opportunity for human connection.
Are there problems with the Hope for Sudbury warming station? Indisputably yes. But to close it now seems unreasonable and inhumane. The weather is warming up and that’s a positive in some ways, but it also means few dry areas to sleep outside, damp nights, wet feet and rain soaking personal belongings being carried or carted everywhere.
Mayor and city council, keep it open for 60 days, until April 30.
What’s the big deal? Work with the centre until then. In the meantime, let the 20 clients be warm and safe from the elements. Then take the summer months to find ways to fill the gaps that existed prior to Hope For Sudbury opening and make changes to your shelters and warming centres that demonstrate compassion, connection and dignity for those struggling.