Skip to main content

Supportive housing centre with one-year waitlist seeks funding to open second location


A supportive housing facility for people with serious mental illness is seeking more funding to open a second location — but management say they have just enough to maintain operations at their sole location near downtown Windsor.

Iris House opened in 2003 and currently has 67 residents. One of them is David Blainey who began living at the centre 21 years ago.

"It saved my mental health," said Blainey, adding he has schizoaffective disorder. "On the proper medication, this is the only establishment in the city where I can function."

Blainey said he has been hearing administration's calls for a second location and "prays" they come true.

That's because the wait to get into Iris House on Ouellette Avenue, which provides food, shelter and programming for its residents, is a year.

Karen Soulliere, board chair for Iris Residential Inns, said the number of people requesting space in Iris House for their loved ones has increased in recent years.

"It hurts my heart when so many family members are coming to me saying, 'Karen, how can we get into Iris? What do I do? We're desperate," said Soulliere, adding the people who live in Iris House are "high need" and unable to support themselves in an apartment.

"There's just not a lot of alternatives out there. Without this, many of them would be homeless or in the hospital," said Soulliere.

According to Iris House executive director Anne Ryan, the centre receives $700,000 of annual city funding — dollars which trickle down from the province's Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP).

"So we're looking for around $70,000 over the next two years and then hoping for increments beyond that," said Ryan.

During a council meeting on Jan. 22 where the public was invited to suggest amendments toWindsor's proposed 2024 budget, Soulliere and Ryan made their pitch to councillors for that additional $70,000, or $35,000 split over the next two years.

Iris House resident David Blainey, as seen on Jan. 30, 2024. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor)Ryan said she was disappointed not to hear "Iris House" mentioned during council's budget deliberation meeting on Jan. 29.

She estimated it would cost around $10 million to open a second Iris House in Windsor.

While the Ouellette Avenue location is in no danger of closing, Ryan said she wants it to be better funded before she dedicates resources to a second location.

"We still need the operating money and the subsidies from the province that flow through the city to come to us. But those need to be expanded," Ryan added.

Despite Iris House requesting more funding to better service its residents, management said it will more than pay off in the long run since other social supports would be freed up to take care of others in the community.

"Some of the folks have been in the hospital many times before they came to Iris, and they've had no hospitalizations since they started living here several years ago," said Soulliere. "So it does save the city, police force and Ministry of Health lots of dollars."

As for Blainey, he hopes to stay at Iris House until he has no choice but to move to a long-term care facility.

"I'm 100 per cent happy here. For the first time in my life, I've got love. I'm not going to let go of it," said Blainey.

Iris House is accepting donations on its website.

“We get to see families reconnect with their relatives who had episodes of psychosis and were estranged, and now we see them reconnect, be welcomed and invited to weddings and family events,” said Ryan. Top Stories

Stay Connected