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Elizabeth Fry Society to operate new shelter for women

After a call out from city staff, Elizabeth Fry answered with plans for a temporary, nine unit low-barrier women’s shelter
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Cory Roslyn, executive director, Elizabeth Fry Society North East Ontario, (Arron Pickard/Sudbury.com)
The City of Greater Sudbury and the Elizabeth Fry Society of Northeastern Ontario are in the process of creating a women’s shelter for Sudbury, as a result of the city council’s unanimous decision to ask administration to come up with a plan to house vulnerable residents. 

That plan was presented as a report to council on Nov. 23, and included ideas related to funding for those who wish to return to home communities, a master lease program with a private landlord, renovations to existing social housing units and using motel rooms as bridge housing. The report also included information about the possibility of a nine-unit women’s shelter, located within three kilometers of downtown.

“We had reached out to our existing community partners that we work with in the homelessness sector, the organizations we knew that are trained and experienced with this population, to see if anyone had the capacity to offer something or open something else,” city coordinator of shelters and homelessness, Gail Spencer, told Sudbury.com.  

“And at the meeting, no one did, everyone has just reached their capacity in terms of the services they're currently operating. But the group that did come forward and gave us a call was the Elizabeth Fry Society.”

Elizabeth Fry Society’s executive director, Cory Roslyn, told Sudbury.com she came away from the call with a feeling of “deep responsibility,” and after some quick planning, went back to the city with an offer to organize and operate a low-barrier women’s shelter. 

A low-barrier shelter is the key, in that while there are already shelters in the city that are specifically for women, they are also for children, and that means that protection of the children is of the utmost importance. 

Low barrier means that you do not have to be sober to gain entry to the shelter - though using or consuming drugs or alcohol are not permitted while inside. 

This means that more women are able to sleep warm and safe, and those with children can have a place more suited to families. 

Roslyn said the shelter aligns with the mission of the Elizabeth Fry Society — addressing the needs of criminalized persons, or those at risk of becoming criminalized, and in particular, the circumstances of women and girls in the criminal justice system.

In addition to housing women, Rosyln said they will be offering their services directly to those staying at the shelter. 

“We'll be connecting our programs and services that provide support to the women in the shelter, while working at different locations, and we're working to build connections and more relationships for women and provide as much support as we can,” she said.

Spencer said the idea was a great opportunity. 

“We know that on average, there's about 10 women per night that stay at the Off the Street shelter (the low barrier shelter at 200 Larch Street, operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association),” she said. 

It’s a shelter that is available for all genders with a total of 35 beds. Spencer said relocating women to a women-only shelter may free up beds, allowing more men to use the shelter. According to the demographics In the Encampment Response Guide, provided to the city by Iain De Jong, those living in the encampment and needing shelter are predominantly men. 

The new shelter will cost an estimated $40,000 to $50,000 per month, pending operation without a security detail in place; the funding will come from provincial and federal funding. 

The shelter is still in its early stages, Spencer said, and looking more towards a January opening, and Elizabeth Fry Society has already begun searching for staff. That will take time however. 

As well, the shelter will be a temporary one, focused on a solution for the winter months. Spencer said the shelter will operate until approximately June of 2022. 

We want to make sure it gets there through all the winter months and spring and then it'll be reevaluated that time,” said Spencer, “but at this point, it's a temporary shelter.” 

The beds will be temporarily added to the 65 ends the city now provides, through the Off the Street Shelter, Cedar Place Women and Family shelter and the youth shelter beds available at the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth (SACY).

Spencer added that the city is also focusing their efforts on creating affordable housing opportunities, and that is where the majority of the funding will be going in future. 

“We have a really strong network of service providers that are working together to help people to get permanent housing,” said Spencer.  “And all our services - whether the warming center, the outreach teams, the emergency shelters - their whole goal is to engage with people and provide them with the support they need to get to permanent housing.”





 

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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com. She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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