The century-plus residential buildings of A Place Called Home – as well as the shelter office – are set to fall next week and in its place a new home will rise for those who need temporary emergency shelter.
Dave Tilley, executive director of the shelter, says it took thousands of hours of volunteer labour and sweat to develop the old buildings “and it served us and the community well for decades.”
But he says the maintenance and upkeep are significant costs given the thousands of people who have used the shelter over the years.
“Our current buildings were never meant to be pandemic proof as we have many shared spaces, bedrooms and living rooms. Also, accessibility has always been a challenge given the layout of the buildings,” he adds.
Currently, the shelter is using local motel rooms to house people who are homeless, such as the ones at Knights Inn in Lindsay.
Tilley notes the new building will centralize all administrative and shelter services under one roof. It will also provide individual rooms and limit contact to reduce the possibility of transmission across residents if COVID does get into the shelter.
“Residents will have a separate entrance so confidentiality can be more easily maintained, and the building will be fully accessible.”
He says the building will be energy efficient with LED lighting throughout and each resident will share a bathroom with only one other person, as opposed to four or more in the old shelter.
Karen Round, chair of the shelter, says they’re looking to develop “a long lasting and durable building that can withstand high usage, reducing costs into the future while maintaining comfort for those using our services.”
The big challenge this year, as Round points out, is the shelter’s goal to fundraise $1.5 million for the construction of the new, 19-bed shelter. She says they will once again turn to the community for this help.
Zita Devan, founder of A Place Called Home, was one of several board members who gathered at the shelter recently to take one last walk through the old structure.
“This is the end of a chapter that has served our community — and now it is time to end this chapter and begin a new one that will continue to fulfill the original mandate,” she tells the Advocate.
When she thinks about key memories from the past the shelter’s first resident comes to mind, as does the staff in those early years who were all trying to turn a dream into a reality.
Tilley says many of his memories relate to the people who people who supported A Place Called Home over the years.
“From people giving up considerable time and effort to support our many events to a regular volunteer who would come in every week to sweep and mop. Many of our past residents have come back to volunteer, cooking in our kitchen, helping with maintenance, and helping with the upkeep of our property,” he says.
All the relationships over the years, coordinated through administration and supported by shelter staff and a dedicated volunteer board of directors made so much possible, he says.