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New outlook for local homeless shelter

Published: April 19, 2017

BY JENNIFER PARSONS

What a difference a year makes. At the start of 2016 the Red Lake Area Emergency Shelter Board of Directors was looking for creative ways to come up with an operating budget to fund its services. This year, the shelter’s Executive Director says new funding and opportunity has given a boost to the operation.

In January the local shelter received their portion of the more than $770,000 allocated to the Kenora District Services Board (KDSB) through the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative.

“Everybody has been fighting, including the KDSB…everybody has been fighting for additional dollars and so that was a huge win in our corner,” said Janalee Jodouin this week of funding that has supplemented 70 per cent of their yearly operating budget.

“That means we can stay open for the year and do minimal fundraising. We still get donations and we can try to make up that shortfall without trying to put on big events where we are trying to raise thousands of dollars to try and keep our doors open.”

Jodouin says the funding will allow the shelter to stay open all year round and focus on programming and capital upgrades. This has included applying for, and receiving a grant from the United Way’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). On Apr. 17 the ED confirmed the group was approved for a capital investment grant of up to $300,000. The money is earmarked for the purchase of a new building.

“This gives us the opportunity to bring the shelter closer to town so that we can provide services to people closer to town. We have the opportunity through the staff member provided by HPS, she is a program manager, she has programming going on during the day that a lot of people can utilize but we are so far away a lot of time it ends up that people don’t come for that reason.”

The current shelter is located on Summers Road and is showing its age says Jodouin. The 1,600 square foot building has a mould problem and has developed soft spots in the floor.

“We want to provide clients as well as staff a healthy environment. If we can provide a healthy environment that is closer to services and gives people the opportunity to do something productive and stay off the streets that is the goal of the shelter… We want to find a place that we can house the shelter but have an additional apartment or two to allow them to go from shelter to a transitional apartment, learn how to live on their own and get used to that and then move out into the community into their own apartment with minimal support.”

Jodouin adds that the goal of the shelter is to help people stay in their own apartments. Four people left the shelter in November and December and staff is working to assist those people with daily responsibilities.

The United Way’s HPS is a partnership between the United Way and Service Canada to administer a federal initiative to fund homelessness-reduction programs. HPS implements a Housing First approach, which provides quality housing and associated supports for vulnerable individuals.

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