Work to reopen men’s homeless shelter in Orangeville ongoing

October 29, 2021   ·   2 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Since the closure of Orangeville’s first men’s homeless shelter earlier in the month, a senior board member from Choices Youth Shelter, who operated the facility, says positive steps are being made to secure long-term funding.

Randy Narine, chair of Choices, notes that there’s several different funding models for the service they’re trying to provide, all of which comes from the federal or provincial government and is then administered through the County of Dufferin.

He says in discussions with County staff, who oversee homelessness and housing services, there’s a strong will to see a homeless shelter for men reopen in Orangeville, serving all of Dufferin.

“The County wants to help us out with the funding, that’s been made very clear. It’s just, we’re working out models to see how that would work. It’s all preliminary talks right now, so we’re just trying to figure out what that’s going to look like,” explains Narine.

“Everything’s really positive right now, everything’s going in a very good direction, and we’re having lots of great communication with them [the County].”

While Narine would like to get moving on the project immediately, he says he’s hopeful that more concrete plans for consistent funding will be in place a month from now. However, he notes that since the money is coming from higher levels of government, there’s a significant amount of legwork for submitting applications to obtain funding.

“Unfortunately, when you’re talking federal/provincial money, it’s a lot tougher to access, there’s a lot more hurdles you have to go through,” says Narine.

He told the Citizen that because of this, Choices was hopeful when Orangeville Mayor Sandy Brown volunteered to put a motion forward for just over $165,000 in funding, which would allow them six months of operation, keeping the men’s homeless shelter open through the winter, while federal/provincial funding sources are explored. However, Narine notes that the pause in services will allow Choices to regroup and search for a new, and more permanent location for the men’s homeless shelter.

He says while he originally hoped to lease a shelter, due to the time constraints around putting something in place before winter, buying a property may be the best, most suitable option long term. This is because Choices would build equity in their property each month and have more control over the operation of the facility. But finding a location, either for lease or purchase, has been a challenge, according to Narine.

“Finding a location in Orangeville is very, very difficult, and the rental market or even to buy is absolutely nuts right now,” he says.

Narine told the Citizen he’s been searching for a property since summer of this year but had no luck. Choices sold one of their properties last year, so the organization has some money sitting in the bank that could be leveraged, should an opportunity present itself. Although, an agreement for long term funding would have to be guaranteed at that time, before a final decision can be made.

During the time Choices’ men’s shelter was in operation, from early Aug. 9 to Oct. 15, a total of six men received assistance, two of which were staying there when it shut down. It was reported in the Citizen on Oct. 14 that one individual who was staying there was reuniting with family while the other individual’s future was less certain. Fortunately, the individual who didn’t have immediate plans leaving the shelter was also able to reunite with his familial support system.

“So nobody’s been put back on the streets, and so far, the program’s been very successful in a very short period of time that we’ve had it operational,” says Narine. “[The men] that have come through the shelter have either reunited with family members, or sought the help that they needed and now have… a steady support system.”

Narine says when it comes to assisting homeless men, getting to the root of the problems that led them to homelessness can be difficult to uncover, but the information is very needed in determining the best way to help.

“When someone’s been living on the streets for so long, they have a defence mechanism, so the initial conversation with anybody when they’re coming off the street – you see a bit of that or they’re very defensive, where they don’t want to speak,” he explains.

“That’s just how it is when you live on the streets…it’s a different lifestyle, and it’s like, men are seen as touch creatures, and to be in a vulnerable state like that – nobody likes it.”

Narine says once the men settle into the shelter, after a few days of receiving food and assistance for their immediate needs, they’re much more likely to open up about their current situation and allow Choices staff to help.

“It’s just about them opening up in a safe space, and just pairing them up with what they need,” he tells the Citizen.

When the men’s homeless shelter moves forward, Narine says Choices is also looking at setting up critical care beds.

“Now, I’m not 100% certain if we’ll be able to get it off the ground but it is something we’re looking at, and it is something that our friends at SHIP [Services and Housing In the Province] used to run,” Narine explains.

“They’re for people with extra special needs. Someone who might be schizophrenic or there’s people with extra special needs that need that extra care and round the clock supervision…or maybe it’s a situation where they run out of their medication and they’re having a little episode.”

Narine says the County has expressed a need for critical care beds, and if funding is obtained, it may also help cover other costs associated with running a men’s homeless shelter.

Going forward, Choices has strong leadership in place, according to Narine, with the new interim shelter manager, Ken Paynter recently joining the team.

“He comes with a wealth of knowledge and a lot of experience. He’s actually been in the community for some time, and he sat at all the situation tables. He’s very much in the know of what we need to be doing at Choices,” says Narine.

“Since he’s come on, he’s made some fantastic changes, and he’s provided us with some fantastic insight that’s helping us navigate a lot of things a lot easier. So, we have very strong leadership, everything’s going great at choices, and we can’t wait to actually get the men’s shelter open.”

Readers Comments (2)

  1. Diane Franks says:

    Is there any further development in Homeless Men’s Shelter for Dufferin County? The community may wish to support the effort.

    • Orangeville Citizen says:

      They are now just looking for a location. Here’s the last article on it:
      The church idea mentioned in the article won’t be moving forward but as soon as suitable location is found it can proceed.


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