Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Hope Haven acting as a warming centre this winter

Chatham’s Hope Haven has been struggling to maintain its services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but the men’s shelter is opening its doors as an ‘Out of the Cold Warming Centre’ during extreme cold weather alerts, Uniedt Way of Chatham-Kent officials said in a media release.

“One of the urgencies expressed at the (Social Planning Table) is a need for places for people who are living without shelter to keep warm – especially during cold spells,” stated Karyn O’Neil, director of community engagement operations, for the United way of Chatham-Kent, in a press release.

Another group at the table is Chatham-Kent Employment & Social Services.

“The United Way’s COVID-19 social planning tables have brought faith based, non-profit and government funded organizations to work together,” stated Polly Smith, director of employment and social services, in a press release.

“The ‘Out of the Cold’ partnership is a great example of our work on the homelessness table. We will continue to strive to avoid duplication and fill the gaps that exist for people who are experiencing homelessness.”

A warming centre’s primary purpose is to prevent mortality, morbidity, and other harmful impacts related to exposure to the elements during a cold weather event, United way officials say.

These centres typically provide limited services such as a bowl of soup, beverages, and a place to sit.

These centres can also act as a safe place for individuals and families that are newly or chronically homeless, or for those who temporarily cannot return to their residence or are not utilizing existing housing services, United way officials added.

Hope Haven has the room to provide this service, but it is in great need of volunteers to help supervise the facility while its open, officials say.

Currently, they are open three days per week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but they hope to expand services as the weather gets colder.

It’s a place where people can get a bite to eat, take a warm shower, do some laundry and get a break from the weather.

The need is even greater now with the colder months coming and considering the incidence of homelessness has increased as a result of the pandemic.

Loree Bailey, executive director, says they had nearly 75 volunteers before the pandemic, and now they are down to 12.

She says that they need volunteers to supervise the facility while its open, assistance with serving meals and some cleaning as well.

“People see homelessness and they want to help,” Bailey said in a media release.

“The best way to make a difference is to join a group that’s doing the work – a group that has the system in place, the knowledge, and the tools. We have the tools. We can’t do this alone, but the impact we can make together is enormous.”

Anyone looking to volunteer should contact Hope Haven at 519-351-4010 or email chathamhopehaven@gmail.com for details.

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