Dufferin Men’s Shelter opening soon, fundraiser being held at Covenant Alliance Church

December 8, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“Men that are homeless, it is not always the case that they are addicted to drugs,” said Erin Goodyear. “There’s the hidden homeless and it’s really important for us to realize there are many factors to homelessness.”

Erin Goodyear is the director of Choices Youth Shelter, which has moved to 20 Townline and is currently being renovated to fulfill the needs of people of the ages between 15 and 24 years, as a co-ed residence. Ms. Goodyear is also now the director of her organization’s new men’s shelter, located at 59 Townline.

This shelter, for men only, “ages 25 to infinity” is not co-ed.

The problems of affordable housing will support Basic Income, she is sure. She told us that some of these men have jobs but as the cost of food rises, people’s wages are not keeping up, meaning the shelter will also be supplying meals for them.

Immediately, the numbers of potential residents are vague as they can have no idea. Until the shelter is open, they are not going to know the demand.

“I do think there are people out there, relying on the grace of their friends,” she commented. “There are people who are waiting for the shelter to open. We’ll have a soft start.”

Twenty residents are the maximum the new shelter can accommodate. It is “really comprehensive” with brand new staff. The team at Choices is aware of some of the problems they are going to be facing and they are all trained professionals.

At the time of this interview, Ms. Goodyear was still hiring. People were applying from outside this community and anybody is welcome to apply, with the right credentials and mindset, she emphasized. That was defined as candidates with a very good understanding; not to be judgemental.

“That’s not a person I need as staff perspective,” she said. “I need the right people.”

Erin has been a social worker in the not-for-profit sector but is new to the homelessness problem.

“Part of the reason I changed my trajectory after some soul searching, I wanted to make an impactful difference, to be useful,” she explained.

Like other places, there are never enough beds and waiting lists; those are the barriers, which must be removed, to create more space and remove waiting lists, which are really where the problems lie.

Said Ms. Goodyear, “We have to meet people where they’re at instead of deciding for them what they need.”

Interestingly, she told us that since the moment she set foot in this house, having been hired on March 28 this year, she has been happy ever since.

An upcoming fundraiser for the shelter on Dec. 15 is A Christmas Carol, the story which is the narrator’s version, as written by Charles Dickens himself, to be performed by Andrew Welch, the Town Crier. He will be in character was the promise. 

Meanwhile, donations for the shelter have come from Dufferin County and the community.

Ms. Goodyear continues working on it, telling us that “This is a really great community to work with; the people are fantastic and funds are coming.”

With more funds comes reconciliation as to what are the men’s needs. There has been some support from the shelter’s porch right now. One of the criteria is that they have a local connection in Dufferin County. There is a real need for some access but there is no shelter for men at the moment.

“We have clothing and can give them a warm meal; the referrals bring various stories of broken relationships. ‘Left my home and children and now I’ve got no place to stay,’” she related, adding, “Some have addiction problems and they’re not really ready to seek help.”

With bad credit, people cannot get places to live.

When asked where do we go from here? Ms. Goodyear replied, “Only up.”

The rehoused youth shelter will still house 20 people or so, depending on how many rooms and how many beds are created. It is a bungalow which has been owned by Choices at 20 Townline since March. The new location is funded by a single community donor and the County of Dufferin.

She said, “They’re good kids. There is so much stigma attached to the homeless community. They just need somebody. Whatever reason you can’t keep employed, you can volunteer, contribute somehow.”

While contributing to fundraising, at the very least, it is a shelter for people who really need it: a hot shower and a warm bed. When people come to a fundraiser, they are really supporting the people that can and will do that.

For the sake of mental health, for counselling and support, she can refer and have a counsellor here two days a week; also, a probation officer can come here.

“Whatever services we need to bring in,” she was firm, “we’ll work around that. We know who those resources are. We are building true connections between leaders in the community.”

While the building itself is not glamorous and the signs are not up, Ms. Goodyear is hoping to open before Christmas with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. There are still permits needed for the youth shelter and details to be completed. It is getting close, she reckoned.

She acknowledged, “There are some folks living wild, as we say in tents, in their cars.”

What she takes home in the evening is the knowledge “that we do good work and we just need the opportunity to do it. Realistically, we depend on the need. As long as people are supporting their progress, they can stay. We will have to work with the ebb and flow with what it is we’re experiencing.”

She said, “We help them apply for jobs; we do all that and we’ve been helping youths for post-secondary education.”

Andrew Welch told the Citizen, “I’ve been doing this Christmas Carol show for years, starting in 1998, doing readings in [long term care or seniors] homes, churches. I just kept it going for fundraisers: for Syrian refugees or as asked for. It’s always in my back pocket.”

The presentation of Dickens’ famous story is perfect timing for the cause and Christmas.

“Its message says a lot about climate change and our times now,” he opined.

Praised for his passion for volunteering, Mr. Welch will deliver this version of A Christmas Carol at the Covenant Alliance Church on 3 Zina Street. Doors open at 6:30 on Dec. 15; tickets are $25 and all proceeds go the men’s shelter.

“Some people who cannot come have already bought tickets anyway,” Andrew Welch said.

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