City’s offer of temporary shelter during snowstorm shunned by Wolfe Street encampment occupants
Although the city set up overnight shelter amid the snowstorm Thursday night, people at the Wolfe Street camp were in no hurry to get there.
Accommodation was set up at the city’s welfare office at 178 Charlotte Street for one night only.
It opened for the night at 7pm, but around that time nobody was seen from the tent camp leaving the tent to get there – even after social workers visited each tent and invited people over.
Shortly before 7 p.m. there were 28 tents in the camp. Half a dozen local welfare agency workers said those tents were all still occupied — and that people were huddled together, ready to weather the storm.
Alana Parisien, housing coordinator for the Elizabeth Fry Society, had gone to the tents to check in with the people.
She also spoke to two local city social service workers who had been there at 2pm and returned just before 7pm; Parisien said they would go from tent to tent letting people know they could go to Charlotte Street for the night.
The overnight shelter at the welfare office would provide pizza and coffee and a warm interior to weather the storm.
But to get there, Parisien said, people would have to tear down their tents and store all their belongings in the Wolfe Street shelter for the night.
Then they would have to trudge to Charlotte Street – no transportation was provided.
“And there is no additional shelter for tomorrow night – it’s just for the duration of the storm,” Parisien said Thursday night.
“So if people decided to leave or store their stuff, they might not be anywhere tomorrow. I feel like a lot of people are feeling insecure and leaving everything they have down there (on Charlotte Street).”
A woman at the camp said he had no tent or belongings but did not want to go to Charlotte Street.
Mad Larry, a man who has lived at the Wolfe Street camp for more than six months, said he planned to sleep in his tent rather than go to Charlotte Street because he thought he had everything he needed to survive the storm.
Overnight accommodation at the Charlotte Mews was due to be open from 7pm Thursday to 9am Friday as the storm raged.
Hours have also been extended at the One Roof Community Centre, which operates on the lower level of St John’s Anglican Church at 99 Brock St.
While this is normally a daytime point of contact for people in need of shelter, hours have been extended from 8:30am to 9:30pm Thursday to Sunday.
One Roof provides a meal to those in need between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. every day.
The Wolfe Street overflow shelter opened in early 2021 to offer additional beds when the city’s other four temporary shelters are full.
The city has 106 shelters and also has access to 15 motel rooms that can be used when all of those beds are occupied.
But a recent city staffer report notes that there are 354 homeless people on a running list maintained by the city; The list helps the city contact people as housing becomes available.
Tents were pitched outside shortly after the Wolfe Street shelter opened last year.
Although the city has a statute that bans sleeping on public land – and Peterborough Police and social workers have recently tried to encourage people to take shelter indoors – the camp is enduring.
Meanwhile, a new overnight drop-in scheme is expected to open soon – likely in the former Trinity Church building on Reid Street – although no further details on that have been given.
The city council considered allocating $100,000 to fund this program, but in a meeting Monday, the motion passed 5-5 with the council. Kevin Duguay declares a financial interest (vote loses if tied).
Nevertheless, the organizers have said that the drop-in will be opened – even without city money.
One City Peterborough, a local agency that helps people find housing, is recruiting applicants for this winter’s focal point.
There are now four emergency shelters in the city:
- YES Shelter for Youth and Families (705-748-3851), 196 Brock St.
- Brock Mission Men’s Shelter (705-748-4766), 120 Murray St.
- Cameron House Women’s Shelter (705-748-4766), 739 Chemong Rd.
- Overflow Shelter at 210 Wolfe St. (705-748-4766 – ask for Overflow Shelter)
After-hours emergency services are available at 705-926-0096.