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Demand for Downtown Mission services increases as cold weather hits

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Windsor, Ont. -

Winter weather is compounding capacity issues at the Downtown Mission, leaving some out in the cold.

With an increased demand for service straining already tight resources, the Mission putting out the call for help.

“We are at a place where the need is so high. We’ve reached capacity in our shelter, in our dining hall, we have people lined up for every one of our services. Whether it would day or night,” says interim executive director, Rukshini Ponniah-Goulin.

The Downtown Mission’s shelter has been at capacity every night over the past few weeks. Individuals seeking a bed for the night begin lining up at 5 p.m., even though intake begins at 8 p.m.

This year, the Service Support team members have responded to 115 drug overdose emergencies. The Housing First Program has helped 83 people find a new place to live. The Food Bank has helped feed 13,484 individuals and 6,831 households.

The organization is in need of monetary donations and volunteers.

“Long time ago I was in a similar situation. Things were difficult, but we got through it and things are okay now,” says food bank volunteer Catherine.

Catherine has been volunteering at the Downtown Mission food bank for seven years and knows how it feels to struggle.

“I always told them we are always here to help. Even if you just use the food bank one time, just know that we’re always here,” says Catherine.

The food bank also seeing an increase in users, up to 91 people a day.

“It relieves expenses. At the end of groceries, it’s a bit of a pinch on our wallet. When you come to the food bank it’s a sigh of relief. It really helps us,” says Vivek Gomez.

COVID-19 is also a complicating factor with restrictions dropping the Mission’s shelter from 103 to 80 beds. With the colder weather, hitting capacity every night.

“Unfortunately there are people we’ve had to turn away because there just hasn’t been any bed anywhere in the city. So we allow them to come in warm up for a while until they are ready to go out,” says Ponniah-Goulin.

The shelter says they are working with the City of Windsor and the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit to allow more bed space.

“We work with the whole shelter system which includes the Salvation Army and the Welcome Centre for Women and Families and we hope that with the three shelters that they refer people when there is capacity amongst each other,” says Debbie Cercone, executive director of housing with the City of Windsor.

The mission is primarily dependent on donations with a small percentage of its operating funds coming from a handful of funders which ensures the continuation of specific programs like the Mission’s Enterprise Program (City of Windsor) and the Phoenix Recovery Program (Erie St. Clair LHIN). The Federal Government’s COVID-Relief funds for Shelters have also helped provide the additional space and staffing required to run a second floor in the Mission’s Shelter.

The mission says these funds will come to an end on March 31, 2022 which could cause a gap in service and leave approximately 40 individuals with no place to go.

“Anyone who donates anything, every little bit helps, every little bit matters, every little bit will come to help us save lives, provide food, provide shelter, provide for those that just don’t have it in the community,” says Ponniah-Goulin.

 

Donations can be made online through the Downtown Mission’s website, click on the Donate Today icon, by mail or in person at their 664 Victoria Avenue location.

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