Remote golf courses poor locations for pop-up homeless shelters: researchers – London Free Press (Blogs)

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Two researchers who studied London’s temporary shelter program last year say moving the sites to edge of the city will uproot and isolate homeless Londoners, flying in the face of their research at the shelters.
Two researchers who studied London’s temporary shelter program last year say moving the sites to edge of the city will uproot and isolate homeless Londoners, flying in the face of their research at the shelters.
Building those shelters at golf courses on the city’s periphery pulls people out of their communities and away from important resources, including the ability to access friends, drugs and services, the duo said.
Jodi Hall, a Fanshawe College professor, and Tracy Smith-Carrier, an associate professor at Royal Roads University in Victoria, say the move doesn’t align with their research of last winter’s WISH (Winter Interim Solution to Homelessness) program that included pop-up shelters in McMahen Park and in a parking lot at York and Colborne streets.
“Moving people away from the core of the city, where many of them have been living, will be difficult for people. They will be away from necessary supports and resources, and possibly away from the community they have developed. This will exacerbate the sense of isolation that people deprived of housing can often experience,” Hall and Smith-Carrier wrote in an e-mailed response to questions.
“The reality is that without access to these services and resources people will not fare well. The sense of community they have developed will dwindle. Their health and mental health will suffer. This will compound the trauma that people have experienced and continue to experience living on the streets.”
An offer to meet with bureaucrats to share findings from the evaluation of last year’s program went unanswered, the pair said.
🧵Intuitively does it make sense that when people shared a wish for more privacy, space and safety they meant being displaced temporarily yet AGAIN to live in trailers on a golf course on the edge of #ldnont in winter?
City hall officials said Thursday a copy of final research results was not received. Though Hall and Smith-Carrier weren’t consulted, the WISH team was involved in planning for this winter, said Kevin Dickins, deputy city manager in charge of housing.
“Based on the feedback, dialogue and input we’ve received from individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness and through our teams’ experiences with last year’s program, we are confident in the solutions we are putting forward,” Dickins said in a statement.
The decision to build the pop-up shelters at Fanshawe golf course and River Road golf course this winter was a result of “lessons learned” last year, including a desire for more space and privacy among those who stayed at the shelters, city officials said when the plan was unveiled Wednesday.
“While most identified a need for greater privacy from each other because of the thin walls in the trailers, it would be a stretch to assume they meant a move to a location that would enhance their isolation,” Hall and Smith-Carrier wrote. “This move also takes people away from important supports and resources that are not the more formalized supports that will be brought on site.
“Residents were concerned about the closing of the sites (last summer) and once again being deprived of housing, and any forward progress they had been able to make while sheltered, lost.”
The focus in London must be on permanent, stable, long-term housing, the researchers say.
Dickins said community agencies running the shelter sites will create individual support and housing plans to meet the needs of each resident.
“This could include helping them with medical support, housing viewings, income confirmation, employment opportunities, obtaining identification, and other supports they might need,” Dickins said in response to questions about the remote nature of the sites.
Transportation will be provided for those who want to leave the sites and many health-care and other services will be brought directly to the shelters.
Dickins also acknowledged feedback that’s emerged in the wake of announcing the new plan.
“The conversations taking place in the community in response to the report are important ones as supporting London’s most vulnerable is critical . . . we will continue to collect feedback and refine our plans to respond and serve those in need.”
The pop-up shelters — which are expected to open Dec. 1 and close by the end of March, if approved by city council — are aimed at helping people transition from the street to housing. Atlohsa will run the shelter at River Road, with an emphasis on care and space for Indigenous people. Grassroots organization Impact London will run the shelter at Fanshawe.
“They are going to need to think creatively of how to attract people to those locations and keep them there,” said Sarah Campbell, executive director of Ark Aid Mission, who spearheaded last winter’s effort to build the shelters downtown. “They will need to bring the services to them if they’re going to be that remote.
“There may be people for whom this is exactly what they need. I just did not have that experience last year (with WISH).”
Still, the remote locations offer opportunities for change that WISH last year could not provide downtown, Campbell said. For example, last year’s shelters did not provide the cultural support that Atlhosa can in one of the new locations, she said.
“I do think there are creative things that can happen that can make a difference. I am supportive of the people who are doing it. I hope the program sees the kind of success we saw at WISH and even more.”
Because Ark Aid serves the downtown community, it was happy to offer, with the YMCA, 24/7 warm resting and eating spaces starting Dec. 1, Campbell said. The downtown Y will be offering space from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, and Ark Aid will provide a place to get out of the cold, have a meal and rest overnight at a church, she said. The details are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.
In addition to the shelters and the downtown drop-in space, this winter’s plan also includes a stabilization space on Hamilton Road, intended to give people in crisis immediate support and a few days to get back on their feet, instead of waiting in the emergency room or landing in jail.
The temporary nature of the winter plan is still a concern for Hall and Smith-Carrier. Safe housing with supports has to be the ultimate goal, they say.
“This means putting money and effort into finding permanent housing options, and just not moving people around according to the season. We can and should do better.”
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