City facilities including City Hall are closed to the public. Many services will remain available, but changes have been made to reduce the need for people to leave their home to access services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives and the community in many ways. For emergency shelter providers and community agencies in London, the ongoing pandemic has required reducing participant spaces and capacity typically available over the cold winter months.
Recognizing the need for urgent life saving measures and support for unsheltered and marginalized Londoners over the winter months, the City of London, together with a number of community partners and agencies joined forces to address this urgent need. The result was the development of a Winter Response Program focused on daily comforts for unsheltered individuals – ensuring individuals have a safe place to get warm, where basic needs and food provided and a sense of community in a socially distance environment.
Following City Council’s approval of the Winter Response Program for Unsheltered Individuals on December 8, 2020, the teams worked quickly to implement the plan, with a goal to open one day resting space and one overnight resting space ahead of Christmas.
Just over two weeks later, and two days before Christmas Day, two spaces are now open for those in need; daytime drop-in space at Hamilton Road Seniors Centre and overnight resting space with day space at 652 Elizabeth Street.
The space at 652 Elizabeth Street provides warm overnight resting spaces for 30 individuals, along with a shared day space and on-site washroom and shower facilities. The location is staffed by community partners and outreach agencies along with security, 24 hours, 7 days a week. Individuals using the space are provided with three meals a day, thanks to the support of community partners.
This space does not serve as a drop-in shelter or support for individuals. Instead, Londoners using this space have been matched with this service through outreach efforts and Coordinated Access which allows the Homeless Prevention and Housing team to provide the right support and services at the right time for unique individual needs. Individuals requiring shelter or supports are asked to connect with the Homeless Prevention team for supports available.
The daytime drop-in space at Hamilton Road Seniors Centre (525 Hamilton Road) opened on December 21, providing a warm space for individuals to access during the day. The space serves as a Coffee House, providing beverages, meals and snacks, in a space that brings a sense of community for individuals using this facility. The daytime drop-in space is open seven days a week, including holidays, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with staff and security onsite during all operating hours.
All spaces follow Provincial and public health guidelines, including physical distancing measures and COVID-19 screening protocols in place to ensure the health and safety of staff and individuals using the spaces.
To develop and implement the Winter Response Program, the City used an enterprise-wide approach, working collaboratively with many teams across the Corporation including City of London Facilities, Parks and Recreation, Homeless Prevention and Housing, Neighbourhood, Children and Fire Services, Information Technology, Corporate Security, among many others.
The remaining two spaces, a second overnight resting space with day space at 415 York Street, and daytime drop-in space at Dundas Field House, are expected to open early January.