No suitable warming centre found in Bancroft but search continues | Spare News

No suitable warming centre found in Bancroft but search continues | Spare News

On December 13, Hastings County revealed through a media release that a search for a suitable warming center in Bancroft has so far been unsuccessful after “an exhaustive search.” However, the county reiterated its commitment to continue working with Bancroft to find a heat center for those who need it this winter and if one is found they will provide financial support for the operation. Andra Kauffeldt, General Manager of the City of Bancroft, Bob Mullin, Warden County Warden of Hastings, and Jane Kali and Victoria Burke of the North Hastings Community Trust comment on this issue.

Kauffeldt reiterated to The Bancroft Times on December 14 that the search for a suitable site for the heat center is continuing and that Hastings County officials will work with the City of Bancroft and other agencies to search for new sites to determine if they are appropriate and available.

Hastings County is responsible for funding and operating heat centers in Belleville, Quinte West and Bancroft, Kauffeldt said, and that the county, Bancroft and many community partners, citizens and agencies have been working over the past year to find a heat center site for this winter , so far without success. She says alternatives have been and continue to be considered as potential solutions to meet both the short-term and long-term needs of this community’s vulnerable sector.

“The reality of homelessness is not unique to Bancroft and exists in almost every city across the country. While a warm room would provide a brief respite from the winter elements, it’s not a long-term solution to a much larger systemic problem. All levels of government, including the provincial and federal governments, must work together to resolve this crisis. Locally, Bancroft is the regional hub and as a result homelessness is most visible here as people from across the region seek support, warmth and shelter in the city. Homelessness exists to some degree in every community in our area, and we need to make sure our voices are united to find a meaningful solution. We encourage residents of North Hastings to phone or write to their MPs, MPs or local council representatives to share their concerns, regardless of where they live. The City of Bancroft remains committed to working with the County of Hastings, our community partners, neighboring communities, service providers and citizens to find a suitable site for a warm space,” she says.

Mullin told the Bancroft Times on December 15 that as soon as the season was halted last year, county and township workers immediately began searching and had a meeting with a group that had potential spaces for a heat center, but with what was needed in terms of security, facilities and the number of volunteers needed for the period, many of whom withdrew at this point.

“Maybe they weren’t willing to put in that much effort or didn’t have the resources to put in that much effort. The county has been looking at some alternatives, some temporary shelters, but as a warm-up center you need washrooms and everything else,” he says.

A place was offered but, according to Mullin, it was outside Bancroft’s parish lines, which created a problem in terms of transporting people and crossing parish lines. They also considered using the shacks they have for managing the [COVID-19] Vaccines as a makeshift heat center, but they weren’t really suitable.

“Well, we’ve tried, of course we still welcome if there are any groups that still want to get in touch,” he says.

As included in its Dec. 13 news release, Hastings County encourages anyone experiencing an emergency homelessness situation to call the local Community and Human Services office at 613-332-3410 or 1-866-569-1941. Outside of business hours, you can contact the After Hours Emergency Service at 1-877-528-9514. Available services may include lodging, transportation to available services, and arranging for assistance services.

Kali and Burke, the executive director and coordinator of harm reduction and outreach services at the NHCT, recognize the need for a heat center but see it only as a stopgap measure and not as viable long-term solutions needed to serve the vulnerable population in Bancroft and the surrounding area help, solutions they have advocated for years.

Burke says that the social determinants of health are not met by a heat center.

“We just don’t push for a heat center that doesn’t meet the needs of the people who would actually use it. And that’s where it comes in, involving people with direct experience. When you really hear from people who are directly impacted and directly involved, they tell you what needs need to be met, not this top-down model,” she says.

Kali says they hear all the time that things like heat centers are better than nothing.

“I would really love it if we and all levels of government raised the bar. Let’s really meet people’s needs, and there’s certainly enough money and a collective will to do something that’s actually much more humane,” she says.

Kali references a Trent University study by Ellen Buck-McFadyen, RN, Ph.D, entitled “Three Models of Rural Emergency Shelters: Exploring the Participant Experience and Lessons Learned,” in which three shelter models (church, motel and warm-up center) were examined over the last three years.

“The motel project was actually much cheaper than a heat center [$920 per night versus $1,200 per night] and when people have their own room and shower and space, they have their own dignity. When people ask us about it, we push for something that really meets people’s needs with dignity, like the hotel model, or better yet, affordable housing in the long run,” she says.

At this time, however, Hastings County, Bancroft and its community partners are still searching for a viable site for the warming center in the short-term while also seeking longer-term solutions to the homelessness crisis. Mullin says if a suitable site is found soon, the county will release a statement informing the community of the fact. The Bancroft Times will share this information as it becomes available.

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