After working through issues that included funding problems and a construction delay, a permanent, low-barrier, year-round emergency shelter opens its doors in downtown Sudbury tonight at 10 p.m.
“The permanent shelter has been a long road — a few bumps along the way, as most of you already know,” said Marion Quigley, outgoing CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Health Association Sudbury-Manitoulin, at the shelter's grand opening Nov. 25.
The grand opening also featured speeches from officials including Greater Sudbury city councillor Geoff McCausland, Sudbury MPP Jamie West, as well as smudging by First Nations representatives.
The 30-bed Off The Street Emergency Shelter is located at 200 Larch St., a building that at one time housed the city's police station.
The building was donated in 2017 to the CMHA for its $7 million Home for Good project with an understanding that would be the only contribution from the municipality.
However, in August, the CMHA was forced to ask the City of Greater Sudbury for a $2.2 million interest-free loan after running into funding problems.
The shelter was also originally supposed to open Nov. 1, but the opening was pushed back until Nov. 25 after a construction delay.
Previously, the Off The Street Shelter only operated in the winter months, but it will now be open year-round.
To bridge the gap after the recent closure of the Salvation Army's downtown shelter, the CHMA has been operating a temporary homeless shelter in another building on Larch Street since the beginning of September.
But that shelter only had 20 cots, one washroom and only provided services to men.
The new shelter, open to those over the age of 16, will have 30 cots set up for people to try to get some shut-eye, as well as four washroom stalls (including one that's wheelchair-accessible) and a shower.
Cots will be set up in a separate area for women to provide them with a safe place to sleep.
There's also a kitchen for coffee and snacks, and laundry facilities where linens as well as clients' socks will be washed. There are lockers where people can store their belongings while at the shelter.
Although it's a low-barrier shelter, and people under the influence of alcohol and drugs are allowed entry, clients' bags and pockets are checked at the door for safety reasons.
“We do not permit any alcohol, weapons, banned substances,” said Cindy Rose, the CMHA's manager of harm reduction and shelter services. “People do get their bags checked, their pockets checked, simply for a safety perspective.”
The shelter is open from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily, and staffed by three people, including a security guard.
During the daytime hours, shelter workers will be available to direct clients to other services, such as housing support and mental health programs.
Over the course of the winter of 2018-2019, the Off the Street shelter provided a place to sleep for more than 460 people, and helped permanently house more than 30 people.
The Home for Good project at 200 Larch St. will also include a new nurse practitioner clinic and the CMHA's managed alcohol program, which will jump from eight to 15 spaces for clients.
As anyone driving by the building will notice, it is still under construction, with work expected to be done at the end of 2019, and the two abovementioned programs expected to open in the renovated space in 2020.
The contractor for the project is Prosperi Construction and the architect is Perry & Perry.
Rose said it's exciting the shelter is finally opening in its new permanent space.
“Everybody has done a lot of work to get it to where we are today,” she said.
If you'd like to help the clients of the Off The Street shelter, donations of coffee, tea, lozenges, toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, lip balm), as well as new socks and undergarments are needed.
Phone the CMHA at 705-675-7252 for donation inquiries.