‘Crisis’ in Lindsay as homeless diverted elsewhere; food bank says ‘we need help’

By Roderick Benns

With Kawartha Lakes’ homeless shelter, A Place Called Home, at full capacity for the better part of a week, homeless people are being diverted to Peterborough or Oshawa.

Meanwhile, one of the founding volunteers of Lindsay’s food bank, Bev Gimbel, says “we’re at a crisis.”

The local food bank in Lindsay, known as Centre of Hope, is seeing an influx of desperate people this week with more people than usual dropping in for food and a place to rest. And yet that’s all the Centre of Hope can provide – food, snacks, and a place to drop in for the day.

“Our insurance won’t allow them to stay overnight,” says Gimbel. “So they come for the day and rest and to get a meal.”

But it’s a shame, she says, considering there is a four-bedroom apartment that has been sitting vacant right above the Centre of Hope.

“It’s a huge apartment – we could easily put 10 to 12 people in there,” in theory, she says, but notes the landlord, Harvey Dawe Realty, wants to keep it empty.

The Lindsay Advocate contacted Jamie Dawe of Harvey Dawe Realty who confirms this.

“I don’t intend on leasing it presently, at this point in time,” Dawe says.

When pressed whether he’d lease the whole building to Centre of Hope if they could afford to rent it all, he noted that he just wanted to “leave it empty for personal reasons,” referring to the newly renovated apartment above.

Gimbel, along with Jenny Csiki and administrator Kim Warr, are the key frontline providers at Centre of Hope, who are all volunteers. They do their best to stay open as much as possible, Gimbel says, which right now is Tuesday through Friday, from 8:30 am to 4 pm.

If somebody said they needed food on a Saturday or Sunday though, “we will serve them,” says Gimbel. “We try to give as much time as possible.”

The volunteer says this week a married couple dropped in for a place to rest and eat. A Place Called Home – a 19-bed facility — was full, so the shelter offered to divert them to Peterborough.

The shelter in Lindsay has private and semi private rooms and two spaces for families with children that are part of its shelter. However, in Peterborough couples are split up because the Brock Mission is set up more like an auditorium, and the couple didn’t want to be apart.

“We run at capacity the majority of the time,” says A Place Called Home Executive Director Lorrie Polito, “and when we are full, our responses to those looking for shelter are varied but are in keeping with our mandate and our budget.”

They look at a number of things such as whether or not the person seeking shelter is from this community, if there are children involved who attend school here, if they have employment, or a network of critical supports nearby.

When the criteria is met, A Place Called Home has the ability to cover the cost of a motel room for up to a week.

“When criteria is not met, we will refer individuals to the appropriate community or service that best suits their needs,” says Polito, with their safety being our number one priority, not the location.

She says the most common diversion practices are as follows:

  • A referral offered to a shelter in Peterborough or Oshawa, a bus ticket or cab fare to the destination. (Some clients accept these offers and some don’t, choosing to find their own accommodation);
  • A referral to a more appropriate shelter service such as a women’s-centred or youth-centred shelter.

In the past week, says Polito, seven individuals were diverted to other services and shelters, a number she calls “higher than average” when typically that might be one to three diversions in a week.

Operations Manager Dave Tilley at A Place Called Home says that “given that we’re only 19 beds, it’s not always easy to accommodate people all the time.”

“We always do our best.”

Gimbel says in the warmer weather homeless people in the area will often sleep in the woods behind Whitney Town Centre.

“We’re at a crisis – and we’ve been there for a while. We need help. People are in need of help, with housing and food – the basics for all of us,” says Gimbel.

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