After months of planning, the City of Greater Sudbury has partnered with the Salvation Army to launch a temporary homeless shelter at the downtown New Life Centre starting Wednesday, Feb. 19.
The homeless shelter – which will feature 12 beds, with the potential for 15 if needed – will function under a new Out of the Cold pilot project.
The project was fast-tracked after the Elgin Street Mission stopped offering overnight winter accommodations, due to budget and logistical problems.
The Elgin Street Mission did not include beds, sheltered up to 18 people a night, who slept on the floor, benches and tables during the coldest winter days.
“This will allow people to sleep on cots,” Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk said about the new pilot program. “It's safer for them.”
Part of the New Life Centre, located at 146 Larch St., will be open as a shelter from 8:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day until March 31, 2014.
Men and women will be allowed to stay at the shelter, but will have to follow five rules: they cannot consume alcohol or drugs on the property, they cannot be disruptive, no smoking is allowed in the facility, they cannot bring pets to the shelter, and clients must remain in the designated Out of the Cold section of the New Life Centre.
Maj. Mike Hennessy, the New Life Centre's executive director, said the decision to collaborate with the city on the pilot project made sense for the Salvation Army.
“It worked within the service we already do for the homeless and vulnerable population,” Hennessy said.
Benno Levin, a member of the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty, said the city took the right step by supporting a new shelter, but added more needs to be done to help the city's homeless and vulnerable population.
Levin said the city and province need to maintain social assistance rates.
The pilot project has only received funding for 2014.
Gail Spencer, co-ordinator of shelters and homelessness for the City of Greater Sudbury, said the city will evaluate the project's success after March 31, and will determine if it is worth pursuing again next year, or if changes will be required to improve it.
Hennessy said the Salvation Army would be open to continue the project next year, but will need to wait for the city's commitment.