London’s Community and Protective Services Committee has endorsed the idea of using two of the city’s golf courses as temporary shelters for the homeless this winter.
The decision came after a long debate in the city councils on Tuesday about the locations of the shelters, as both golf courses are far from the inner city center in remote locations with restricted traffic.
As part of a proposed “Winter Unprotected People Response Program”, the River Road and Fanshawe golf courses will host portable trailers that are priority for those “working towards their residential goals.” The River Road Golf Course is intended exclusively for indigenous peoples.
At both locations, 60 shelters will be available for selected people for the duration of the project. It would run from December 1 to March 31, 2022, with the grounds of the Fanshawe Golf Course closing in early March.
“I think it’s fair to say we’re taking some of them forward,” said Coun. Anna Hopkins. “I think it’s okay to acknowledge that. Not doing something would be worse. And that’s my concern. That’s why I support that. I see this as a pilot project.”
The program is not limited to the golf courses. There would also be 48 day drop-in spots and 40 overnight spots for those looking for shelter for eight hours or less, and 10 stabilization spots for 24 to 72 hours. Many of the beds are in the city center or in more densely populated areas.
The recommended program aims to meet the need for more housing due to COVID-19. According to the city, the city already supports 300 beds in animal shelters across London, which are often full.
Unity Project executive director Chuck Lazenby said she was pleased to see resources pouring into emergency shelters for those who are homeless in the winter despite being on the outskirts of town.
“I would be of a very different opinion if the two golf courses were the only option for people,” she said before the committee meeting. “I think that would just be a terrible idea. But what I am seeing here is that this adds an option for some people. ”
Lazenby said she hears from people who want to be away from the city center.
“They really want to be removed from the activities that they are engaged in in the heart of the city.”
This temporary homeless shelter in McMahen Park provided people with a safe and private bedroom, as well as a common area, washrooms and showers. (Colin Butler / CBC News)
According to the staff report, “The best response to response over the past year came from those who could achieve more privacy and a more focused response in a community.”
The full council will vote on the plan on November 16.