Opened in 2000 as a seasonal, overflow shelter for other shelters, it began nightly operations in 2004 as a response to the demand for services. Located in the low-ceiling, cramped basement of a converted church, it originally had a bed capacity for 24 people. Thanks to CorCan (Corrections Canada), we purchased 9 bunk beds for the first 18 people who booked their beds. Mattresses on the floor were provided for anyone after the bunk beds were booked.
In 2014, the shelter and the Housing Help Centre moved to its current location at 540 Montreal St. to join Home Base Housing’s Administrative and Supportive Housing offices. The new shelter space provides a spacious “living room” space, a larger kitchen area, two bathrooms (including a handicapped facility) and two walk-in showers. The shelter staff were initially concerned about the impact of the move on the regular clients; however, the executive director received the following note the morning after the first night from the staff: We admit that we had a lot of trepidation about moving. Change is hard, we didn’t know what to expect. We watched as our clients entered this new space tonight. It was magical to share their excitement – after years in the crowded basement at 426 Barrie St., it was like we had arrived in a new world. At first people were in awe and maybe a bit overwhelmed. But that was quickly followed by a wonderful calm content – that this time in their lives, a time of struggle and uncertainty, did not define what they are worth. We think there was a realization that this agency respects them as people, deserving of a place like this, because they are worth it. Although 540 Montreal St., is just a “building”, we felt like we were a part of restoring hope and dignity to people tonight.”
As of July 1, 2015, the shelter increased its capacity to 29 beds in response to the City of Kingston’s 10-year Housing & Homelessness Plan. In addition, the City awarded Home Base Housing the contract for providing the Housing First program and services to clients staying in our and other shelters. Clients are assessed for the level of need and referred to case management services dependent on the assessment. The principle of Housing First is that individuals who experience chronic homelessness are assisted to secure housing first and then obtain support services appropriate to their needs.
In From the Cold Emergency provides an evening meal and breakfast before clients leaving in the morning. The shelter opens as a drop-in for homeless individuals at 2 p.m. weekdays and at 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays until 5 p.m. During that time, homeless individuals can make use of the shower facilities. Shelter clients can sign in for beds during drop-in hours or by 6 p.m. each night. Throughout the night, the staff do the clients’ laundry when requested to do so.
The shelter is fortunate to receive donations from a variety of sources. Particularly throughout the winter months, a multitude of socks, hats, mitts/gloves, comfy pants and a wealth of toiletries are donated for the shelter clients. On a regular basis, the shelter receives supplementary food from Queen’s Soul Food as well as other food donations from faith groups.