As part of a short-term solution to ongoing long-range planning of homelessness services here in Rainy River District, a temporary “pop-up” out-of-the-cold shelter will be opened at the Apostolic Way Church on the corner of Church Street and Victoria Avenue.
Beginning early in the new year, the church will open its basement to individuals aged 16 and over who require a warm bed on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights.
This is the result of several months of partnership meetings between the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board, Rainy River District Victim Services Program, Northern Community Development Services, the United Native Friendship Centre, and other organizations around the community.
Volunteers from various church groups around Fort Frances will be there to serve a meal and set up beds at the beginning of the evening, so individuals using the shelter will be able to escape the cold on those three nights of each week until April, when the weather is less dangerous.
The program only will be open through the night and those accessing the shelter will be asked to leave in the morning.
The “Out-of-the-Cold” program will be operated mainly by volunteers.
In the near future, the agencies involved in this initiative will be seeking volunteers to help out during the overnight hours at the church.
“Safety precautions will be put in place,” stressed Peggy Loyie, program manager with the RRDVSP.
“The OPP, Treaty #3 Police Services, and the Bear Clan Patrol, who are also aware of this initiative, will be checking in throughout the night,” she noted.
“We will be looking for volunteers who will need to have sound judgement, and compassion, will need to pass a Vulnerable Sector Check with the OPP, and be willing to take the required training,” Loyie added.
The organizing agencies are finalizing details, including security, training, and logistics such as clean-up, before recruiting.
Though a “pop-up” shelter is new to Fort Frances, homelessness is not.
“Those of us working in social services hear regularly how surprising it is to learn that there are homeless people living in Fort Frances,” said Jamie Petrin, Community Homeless Liaison for the local DSSAB.
"It's unfortunate but a real fact.
“With no form of emergency homeless shelter in Fort Frances especially, we approached the churches for assistance,” she noted.
After a number of discussions related to logistical matters and safety, the Apostolic Way stepped forward to provide space in its basement.
The group continues to search for available spaces suitable for “pop-up” shelters to be able to provide seven nights per week out of the cold.