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Mayor Caul pushing for homelessness initiative funding

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Fort Frances Mayor June Caul says the town is taking steps to help people experiencing homelessness in Fort Frances.

As part of her update to council at last week's meeting, Caul explained that she has spoken with Ontario's Minister of Finance about homelessness in town in addition to working with the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board (RRDSSAB) to find positive solutions to the issue.

“This afternoon I participated in a virtual meeting with Minister Rod Phillips” Caul said.

“Minister Phillips had asked the mayors for their input into the fall budget. I did get a chance to speak today, so I'm asking that the provincial budget include funding for homelessness, a women's shelter and trauma/treatment centre here in Fort Frances. Domestic abuse, trauma and addictions very often cause homelessness. Women and their children especially need a safe place to go when they are in abusive situations.”

Mayor Caul also noted that the town has been working with DSSAB and other community partners like the Family Centre to help address homelessness in the area.

“I know the United Native Friendship Centre, DSSAB and the Family Centre have put a lot of time in trying to support the homeless and those with addictions,” Caul said.

“Especially now as winter will soon be upon us. I believe the town has a role to play in finding the best solutions to curb the rise in homelessness.”

In most recent news regarding homelessness in Fort Frances, it was announced that DSSAB had completed the purchase of the Apostolic Way Church on Victoria Ave., allowing it to be the permanent home of the Out of the Cold warming centre going forward. DSSAB will also be renovating the rear portion of the church to fix a leaky roof. Meanwhile the Family Centre has recently put on a free Thanksgiving Dinner for those in need, in addition to undertaking a number of renovations in order to provide a space for showering and doing laundry at the Volunteer Bureau building.

In addition to homelessness, Caul also shared that she and Fort Frances Fire Chief Tyler Moffitt were invited to lunch at the Couchiching Fire Hall in recognition of the town's donation of a pumper truck. Caul said it was important for the town to continue to work with the Indigenous communities that are our neighbours “with respect, friendship and partnerships.”

Another item in Caul's update to council was the workings of the municipal emergency control group, which she said has continued to meet regularly to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and the town's response. Caul explained that Riverside Health Care was getting ready to do some work to the Memorial Sports Centre to help prepare it to be an emergency centre in the event of a significant second wave of COVID-19 in town.

“Riverside is preparing to install upgrades to some areas of the Sportsplex to be ready for use if the second wave of the illness hits our area,” she said.

“These upgrades would create space for patients who are currently in the hospital so that La Verendrye Hospital would be strictly used for COVID patients.”

The Memorial Sports Centre was designated as an alternative care centre by Riverside Health Care earlier this year to handle overflow in the event that the virus caused a surge in patients that was greater than the hospital could accommodate. In a press release from April, Riverside President and CEO Henry Gauthier noted that the Sports Centre could be used for testing, patient overflow, treatment care, food service, storage or any other operational and support needs.

While the region has not experienced a second wave like other parts of the province, Caul cautioned the public to not let down their guards.

“I just want to remind everyone of the seriousness of this issue and that we must continue to be very vigilant in keeping our families and friends safe,” she said.

“Please please remember all the safe practices I have continually asked you to do and that you constantly hear in the media. Wear a mask in all indoor public spaces. Stay two metres or six feet away from others when you are in a public space. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Wash your hands often, especially when you are in places other than your own home. Keep your social bubble small and just to one group of ten people, and if you travel outside of our region, self-isolate for the safety of family, friends and co-workers.”

Caul also extended her thanks to all essential front line workers who have continue to do their jobs during the pandemic.

“Thank you once again to our frontline workers for your dedication to saving lives and protecting the vulnerable population,” she said.

“To all Riverside staff, doctors, nurses, personal support workers, mental health workers, paramedics, firefighters, OPP, teachers and EAs, business owners and store staff who serve us every day, and thank you to all the community partners who are on our municipal emergency measures group, helping us to maneuver through this uncertain time. Thank you.”

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