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London, Ont. unveils temporary winter shelter site at Fanshawe Golf Course

Officials have unveiled a temporary shelter at the Fanshawe Golf Course, which will work in unison with the city’s multi-pronged approach to winter homelessness in London, Ont.

Roughly 30 people will sleep, eat and live at the northeast London space, which is set to operate from Wednesday until March 1 of next year.

The goal is to help transition participants from homelessness to stabilized housing, a process that officials hope will take much less than the three months the site will operate for.

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While the overall winter response to homelessness is led by the City of London, the Fanshawe Golf Course site will be managed by Impact London, a local non-profit led by those with lived experience that helps those struggling with homelessness.

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The site provides single and double beds, with the larger option intended for couples and other duos who need to stay together, such as a parent or guardian and their child.

These beds are housed in retrofitted trailers that were previously used during last year’s winter response.

The golf course’s clubhouse will provide both a lounge and dining area, with meals provided by the on-site kitchen.

This room is complemented by large windows that shoot out onto a view of the Fanshawe Lake portion of the Thames River.

Washrooms and showers are also available at the site.

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Drug use is not condoned at the site, but cigarettes are available. There are also naloxone kits on site and officials say staff are prepared should any drug use happen.

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Four Impact London employees, one manager and two security guards will be on site at all times.

There will also be a driver available during working hours to transport guests back into the city should they need to attend an appointment or want to access a support service such as an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

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A number of the support services available to guests are also willing to travel to the site to provide access, such as Life Stabilization through Ontario Works, according to officials with Impact London.

A sample of some of the essentials provided to guests staying at the temporary shelter site at Fanshawe Golf Course. Andrew Graham / Global News

Managing the site on behalf of Impact London is George Clarke, who also provides outreach management and business relations for the group.

“To be able to provide them with their basic needs, a warm bed, a hot shower and three square meals, it’s the start of something good in their journey to rehabilitation,” Clarke said.

On top of fostering a sense of community among guests, Clarke says Impact London also hopes to build life skills, accountability and responsibility for those staying at the site by providing them with jobs to do during their time there.

“We’ll give them small jobs to start … as they succeed and do well with that job, we’re going to reward them with another job, a little bit more responsibility, so they can see they’re making progress,” Clarke said.

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“We believe that that will build a confidence that only they can figure out for themselves.”

As of Tuesday, 28 individuals have been selected to attend the shelter site at Fanshawe Golf Course and the city is working to fill the extra spots.

The group makes up a sliver of those who require housing in London and each person selected for the site had to meet a number of criteria, including chronic homelessness and unsheltered homelessness.

Debbie Kramers manages the city’s Coordinated Informed Response for unsheltered individuals and says they also looked for paper readiness in individuals, which she says is essential for being housed.

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“It’s not an easy task. I would like to be able to offer a unit to absolutely everyone out there because I know there are large numbers,” Kramers said.

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Kramers hopes the other services provided by this year’s winter response to homelessness will help those who didn’t make the cut for the Fanshawe Golf Course site. Those other services include drop-in spaces downtown, as well as an Indigenous-led shelter site at Parkwood Institute.

“Everything else is on track for starting when we had anticipated, even though there were so many hiccups along the way,” Kramers said of the winter response.

The Fanshawe Golf Course site will begin operation on Wednesday, but officials say not all confirmed guests will be brought in right away.

However, they do plan to have everyone in before Christmas.

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