Kawartha Lakes' Finest Magazine

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

in Community/Social Issues by

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.

Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also on the communications team of the Basic Income Canada Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.


  1. All God’s Children, a study of homelessness in California by Rene Denfeld, offers an explanation that also applies to Ontario. It breaks the homeless population into two groups – those street gangs that have families who will shelter them but choose to live rough because it pays, and the vulnerable they prey on. When criminal gangs forced me into homelessness, I stayed at the shelter. I watched gangs beat a woman who refused to pay protection. I saw open drug dealing. After I complained, a resident threw me against a wall and called me “a rat”. When another resident broke windows and threatened us with a big knife, police dropped him off outside a detox and he was back in the shelter within the hour. I left to live in my vehicle (lucky me to have that option) even though it was 30 below and I was on antibiotics for pneumonia, because it was safer. Along with federal guaranteed income law, criminal justice needs to step up to help the vulnerable because gang exploitation creates and sustains homelessness.

  2. Ontario categorizes street gangs as homeless. The gangs prey on the vulnerable and keep them homeless. I have both worked in the homeless system and been homeless and I think that in addition to federal GI law, criminal justice needs to step up. I watched a gang beat a woman who refused to pay protection. I spoke with CPP staff who issued two chèques to some clients so they could pay protection. I watched gangs come into the shelters monthly on cheque day to shake down the vulnerable. I was thrown against a wall and called “a rat” for objecting. The crime is well organized. It uses shelters to sell drugs, sex and arms. They target poor folks for their political views, cleanse them from communities, blacklist them and rob them until they become homeless. They control affordable housing. Police blame their victims and the Crown prosecutes them. A lawyer told me they do that to drive their target crazy so the Crown can use Mental Health law to detain them indefinitely in psychiatric custody without any trial. Imagine that! Our whole system is corrupt. Criminal justice needs an overhaul.

  3. In Britain there is a programme called Nightstop that matches young people who need a home for a few nights with volunteers who are willing to provide a safe environment (all involved go through a screening process). Maybe it is time for some of us in the Kawartha Lakes to set up a similar network for those in need. It is too bad that available housing is not being offered to those in need. For further information on Nightstop see Nightstop UK (https://www.nightstop.org.uk)

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