Demand for Downtown Mission services grows as cold weather arrives


Windsor, Ont. –

Winter conditions worsen capacity issues at the downtown mission, leaving some in the cold.

With increased demand for services straining already limited resources, the mission appealed for help.

“We are in a place where the need is so great. We have reached maximum capacity in our shelter, in our dining room, we have people lined up for each of our services. Whether it’s day or night, ”says Interim Executive Director Rukshini Ponniah-Goulin.

The Downtown Mission shelter has been operating at full capacity every night for the past few weeks. Those looking for a bed for the night start lining up at 5 p.m., even though admission begins at 8 p.m.

This year, members of the technical assistance team responded to 115 drug overdose emergencies. The Housing First program helped 83 people find new housing. The food bank helped feed 13,484 people and 6,831 households.

The organization needs monetary donations and volunteers.

“A long time ago I was in a similar situation. Things were tough, but we got through it and things are going well now, ”says Catherine, a food bank volunteer.

Catherine has volunteered at the Downtown Mission Food Bank for seven years and knows what it’s like to struggle.

“I always told them we were always there to help them. Even if you only use the food bank once, know we’re still here, ”says Catherine.

The food bank is also seeing an increase in users, up to 91 people per day.

“It relieves expenses. At the end of the races, it’s a bit of a pinch on our wallet. When you come to the food bank, it’s a sigh of relief. It really helps us, ”says Vivek Gomez.

COVID-19 is also a complicating factor with restrictions increasing the mission shelter from 103 to 80 beds. With the colder weather, reaching capacity every night.

“Unfortunately, there are people we had to turn away because there were simply no beds in the city. So we allow them to warm up for a while until they are ready to go out, ”explains Ponniah-Goulin.

The shelter says it is working with the City of Windsor and the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit to allow for more bed space.

“We are working with the entire shelter system which includes the Salvation Army and the Reception Center for Women and Families and we hope that with the three shelters they will refer people when there is a need. the capacity between them, ”said Debbie Cercone, Executive Director of Housing. with the City of Windsor.

The Mission depends primarily on donations, with a small percentage of its operating funds coming from a handful of funders, which ensures the continuation of specific programs such as the Mission’s Corporate Program (City of Windsor) and the Phoenix Recovery Strategy (Erie St. Clair LHIN). . The federal government’s COVID-Relief funds for shelters also helped provide the additional space and personnel needed to manage a second floor in the mission shelter.

The mission says these funds will end on March 31, 2022, which could lead to a disruption in service and leave around 40 people with no place to go.

“Whoever makes a donation, every little bit counts, every little bit will help us save lives, provide food, shelter, support those in the community who don’t have any,” says Ponniah. . -Goulin.

Donations can be made online through the Downtown Mission website, click on the Make a donation icon today, by mail or in person at their branch at 664 Victoria Avenue.

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