Lead agency, London Cares Homeless Response Services, announces up to $5M multi-agency & City collaborative solution that will see services to support Londoners experiencing homelessness expanded from 2021 response.
London Cares, in partnership with Unity Project, Atlohsa Family Healing Services, The Salvation Army Centre of Hope, Ark Aid, Canadian Mental Health Association-Coffee House, Safe Space, and 519 Pursuit, are rolling out an expanded winter response for London’s unhoused population, with up to $5M in funding from the City of London.
The model, says London Cares Executive Director Anne Armstrong, is a first for the community and was created by all agencies collaboratively, and is a testament to what is possible when various organizations, with different areas of focus and expertise, combine efforts.
“Our shared goal has always been to ensure more support and better access to basic needs, together, with coordinated efforts, resources and approaches,” said Armstrong. “We know that the only way we can do this, is together, and that is how we’ve arrived at a solution that will see even more support than last year for Londoners experiencing homelessness.”
Elements of winter response will build on current resources with enhancements including more dedicated indoor spaces, a coordinated approach to orientation and training, and an overall approach to ensure unified support through the winter months. Available temporary shelter options will include some spaces for couples and pets, for women and non-binary individuals, for Indigenous community members, as well as daytime and overnight resting and drop-in spaces and plans to activate additional resources for cold weather alert periods.
Kevin Dickins, Deputy City Manager, Social and Health Development, agrees the new and expanded collaboration is a game changer.
“We all agree we have to do whatever it takes to keep marginalized Londoners safer and sheltered as much as possible during harsh winter months, while we work on a long term collaborative strategy,” said Dickins. “The way local agencies have come together means more support for more individuals in new and impactful ways, all because of this coordinated and community led effort.”
The plan and funding come at a pivotal time, with continued growth in London’s unhoused population, and a recent summit to bring together healthcare and emergency services, social services providers, business and land and housing developers, to map a new whole of community system response to the crisis.
The coordinated solution is built upon actions already underway by multiple agencies, including encampment support and outreach, cultural safety, trauma informed and harm reduction training for outreach workers, outreach coordination to reach more folks and identify resource gaps, and the provision of everyday resources and hygiene essentials – from food and water to showers and laundry.
With an anticipated additional 56 spaces being activated during cold weather alerts this season, the enhanced community wide winter response is aiming to support nearly 400 individuals experiencing homelessness each day.
With the funding approval, the winter response is expected to begin to operationalize immediately.
Organizations interested in contributing to the community led response to support individuals experiencing homelessness are encouraged to connect with London Cares.
Mayor elect, Josh Morgan sees the new plan as nothing short of life saving.
“Most importantly, and without question, this program will save lives. Beyond that, it is my hope this effort also sends a clear message to those experiencing homelessness that they matter. That’s reflected by the unprecedented nature of this program, along with the compassion and commitment of so many individuals who contributed to its design, and imminent implementation.
I encourage all Londoners who are able to consider how they too might join in this community- wide response by doing what they can to support our most vulnerable.”
Partners across the community respond to expanded collaborative approach to winter response:
Andrea Jibb, Director of Community Planning, Atlosa
Atlohsa acknowledges the need for creative solutions and partnerships to keep our relatives experiencing homelessness safe in the cold winter months. Based on the learnings and successes from last year's Indigenous-led winter response, this year we are preparing for a similar, longer-term response based in land-based healing that prioritizes some of our most displaced relatives not able or willing to access traditional services. We are also looking forward to supporting the community response with Indigenous cultural safety training and enhanced Indigenous housing-focused street outreach supports.
Sarah Campbell, Executive Director
We will always be interested in ensuring that basic needs and life saving intervention is an essential service in our community. This is a long term systemic issue and the only way we will make progress is together as a community to give people the opportunity to self sustain. All people in our community need to be beheld, beloved and belong.
Sarah Collins, Program Director, The Salvation Army Centre of Hope
With the assistance of many community partners that formed the Action and Accountability Task Force, we have been able to work collaboratively to develop a plan to assist those in our community that are experiencing homelessness. This process was a large task placed before us and has seen the community partners come together to create these interim solutions to meet the needs during the coldest months of the year.
Scott Courtice, Executive Director, London Intercommunity Health Centre
While we work together on longer term, innovative approaches to tackle this complex challenge around community health and homelessness, we are also able to work together to address immediate needs for our most marginalized community members. This is exactly the kind of partnership and collaboration our community needs.