Choices purchasing local property for men’s homeless shelter

March 3, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

After six months of searching, Choices Youth Shelter has found an appropriate location to open a men’s emergency shelter in Orangeville.

Choices purchased a triplex last week and closes on the house late next week.

“Everybody at Choices feels like we’re on Cloud Nine right now. It’s very exciting,” said Choices chair Randy Narine, regarding the newly acquired property.

“We’re very close to putting the services that we desperately need in Dufferin County in place, and it’s fantastic that we get the opportunity to do this.”

Narine told the Citizen he’s hoping to have the shelter fully operational with four to six beds for June 1, as the newly purchased facility needs to be modified to accommodate a shelter environment.

Funding has verbally been secured by the County of Dufferin, who administers the money through the provincial and federal government. They’re releasing start-up funds to help get the shelter converted and will determine a budget over the next couple months.

“Everything’s trending in a positive direction. County’s having fantastic conversations with us. They’re super happy about this,” said Narine. “As of right now, they will be funding it. It’s just a matter of how much.”

Choices opened Orangeville’s very first homeless shelter for men on Aug. 9 of last year, but it was closed two months later on Oct. 8 due to a lack of funding at the time.

Since then, finding a suitable property has been challenging with Orangeville’s fast moving real estate market, so Narine says he’s thrilled that something’s finally in place.

Unfortunately, despite many efforts, Choices was unable to put a men’s shelter in place through this winter, with no viable location available, but the County of Dufferin did enhance their motel voucher program.

Reactive to Proactive Approach

One of the key changes Choices is trying to bring about as it begins offering services for unhoused men, in addition to youth, is a more proactive approach to the issue of homelessness. 

“We’re reactive in the way that we deal with youth and men. They’re homeless, they’re on the street, but there’s a lot of stuff that happens before that,” said Narine.  

There are often mental health issues, financial struggles, and a mix of other factors that lead someone to being unhoused, he explained.

“What we want to do is be proactive, and having this new facility allows us the space to do it,” said Narine.

He noted that being proactive means offering programming/counselling that covers mental health, addictions, finances, and overall emotional support. Narine said this is the vision for Choices once the new shelter is settled. This type of programming would be offered to everyone in the community as a proactive measure.

“You do not need to be homeless to come in and seek help. If you’re a man that’s struggling with a drug addiction or an alcohol addiction, we’re going to hopefully have programs in place where you can come in and seek the help you need before you get there,” said Narine.

He added that Choices is looking to do the same for youth, offering them proactive programs as well.

“You just drop in, seek the help you need, and come whenever you like,” Narine said. “That’s the direction we’d like to see things go.”

There’s a lot more to helping someone who’s homeless or on the verge of homelessness than just offering them a warm place to sleep, he noted.

“You have to actually address what the root cause of the issue is, and if you’re not addressing the root cause of the issue, it’s just kind of like a band-aid solution,” Narine remarked.  

He said offering in-depth counselling at Choices, that would seek to address root causes of homelessness, is the best way to get people who are struggling back on their feet and self-sufficient again.

“That’s what we like to see. That’s the program we have with our youth and it’s been very, very successful. As long as they stick it out, when they go through the program, typically they come out a lot better,” Narine told the Citizen.

Crisis Care Beds

Choices has put forward applications to the provincial government for funding of a crisis care bed, which the organization now has space for.

The approximate cost to staff a bed is $100,000 per year and Narine said if the funding is secured after the men’s homeless shelter opens, they’d be able to get it up and running right away.

The Town of Orangeville is currently looking at the feasibility of converting the current fire hall on Dawson Rd into a facility with several staffed crisis care beds. If the project is able to move forward, the soonest it could see completion would be later in 2023, as the construction on the new fire hall won’t be completed until the spring or summer of next year.

Narine said the issue of men’s homelessness and people in crisis is only getting worse, so it’s important to get something in place now.

New Location Potential

Narine said there’s a good chance that the facility currently housing homeless youth ages 16-24 on Townline will be converted into the men’s shelter, and the new facility, which is near Townline, will house the youth.

“That’s not set in stone at this moment, we’re looking at different opportunities to maximize the programming in Dufferin County, and which setup would work best,” Narine said. “The new facility has a lot of potential for the kids, and that’s really the route we’re walking down right now. And before we pull the trigger, we have to make sure that it would work perfectly.”

There’s a decent amount of property at the back of the newly purchased home, which gives the people who Choices’ serves more privacy and somewhere to enjoy the outdoors, without leaving the property.

“Right now, there’s not a lot of privacy at the [Townline] location, and there’s not a lot for the kids to do outside because of how limited the space is outside the shelter,” said Narine. “So they tend to go for walks… but this way, they can all just be in the backyard hanging out on a nice summer day.”

The details will be worked out among Choices board, and by consulting with the organization’s partners across Dufferin County. Narine said right now, the focus is on moving into the property and finish closing on it next week without any hiccups.

Anyone interested in donating to Choices to assist with the new men’s shelter project and the current services they offer to youth 16-24, can visit or call (519) 940 5687.

“We’re only as good as the funding we receive, and we rely heavily on donations right now. So, if anybody’s interested in donating, we’re always looking for more,” Narine noted. “We’re always looking to expand our programming; we’re trying to move forward and upwards versus staying still.”

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