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Survey finds 21 homeless people in WN

by Isabel Mosseler

With the recent spate of extremely cold weather and a winter that seems harsher than usual, Canadians were dismayed to see that over 100 people had died in Chicago while sleeping rough in the streets. While we are blessed to have a stronger social safety network in place in Ontario, the question has arisen – what do we have in West Nipissing to assist those in crisis and in danger of homelessness? While there is the Horizon Women’s Centre available to women and children, it initially appears that very little is in place for men. Joseph Bradbury, CAO of the District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board (DNSSAB) says, “For men, the closest available shelter is the Crisis Centre in North Bay, which is a 19-bed facility.” Bradbury notes that the facility, and the North Bay Warming Centre (which is volunteer run) are both running at capacity. He adds that DNSSAB is not the body that handles homelessness, but they do have programs in place to help prevent homelessness.

Bradbury advises, “If members of the public see anyone on the streets that have elevated risks of harm to themselves or others, the pathway for services is often 911 during this type of weather. 311 is also useful for locating supportive services available in communities across the district.  The women’s shelter in West Nipissing is available for women and young children.  The men’s shelter is in North Bay at the North Bay Crisis Centre and they sometimes provide a regional response, but transportation is often a challenge in areas without municipal transportation services.  Police are often helping individuals in distress find their way to shelters.  Our DSSAB office locally and case management team is always available to help individuals in the community find and connect to the supports they need.” 

Chief Ray St-Pierre of the West Nipissing Police Service adds, “We are always the last resort when people are in crisis because we’re open 24-hours a day 365-days a year. So when there are no other services available to you, who do you call?” St-Pierre says the homelessness situation in West Nipissing is not as apparent as in other communities. “Yes, we do get calls of people walking around. We don’t have a big community of homeless people; we do get … a couple of calls where someone is trying to warm up either at a restaurant or vestibule somewhere. We try to find them shelter, but there are no shelters here in town for men. There’s no warming centre. The nearest is in North Bay, or Sudbury, so we’re lacking there. …We try to find either a friend or relative. If the person is in medical distress, we’re going to take them to the hospital, of course… It happens on occasion, but it is rare.”

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