After a year with an average occupancy rate of 103 per cent, the Men’s Mission in London has added 10 temporary overflow emergency beds to alleviate overcrowding.
Mission Services of London, which also operates Rotholme Women’s and Family Shelter, added the beds at the start of the year. They’ll remain in place through the busiest months, until April.
The Men’s Mission currently has 121 emergency shelter beds, including the 10 new temporary beds.
“There were certainly periods during the fall of 2018 where we were pushing over 121 beds. That led us to believe that when we hit the months where we know where occupancy would be higher, that 121 would be pushed,” Gordon Russell, director of shelters at Mission Services, told 980 CFPL.
“The city of London called us together as a system and said, ‘What are we going to do?’ One approach was to add 10 additional, temporary beds at the Men’s Mission for a 16-week period and we actually opened those beds on Jan. 2.”
Russell added that the number of those experiencing homelessness has not increased substantially, but those in need of emergency housing are staying at shelters for longer periods.
“What we are experiencing more often than not is individuals who have been experiencing homelessness more frequently,” he said.
“They’re accessing emergency shelters, or in some cases urban camping, for much longer periods of time.”
Russell notes emergency shelters don’t want to become permanent shelters, and the aim is to help people move from homelessness to finding long-term housing.
The Rotholme shelter for families has seen extremely high occupancy rates as well. At one point, Mission Services reported occupancy rates of 195 per cent and appealed to the public for $10,000 in donations just to make it through the week of Sept. 24.
Once the shelter reached capacity, it began to put up families in area hotels and motels. The London Free Press reported in mid-December that Mission Services of London concluded the program was unsustainable and would be cancelled, though families already staying in hotels and motels would not be kicked out.
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