Essential Hamilton outreach service’s focus on ‘root causes’ of homelessness leads to difficult decision

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Published September 29, 2022 at 10:35 am

A respected charity in Hamilton says that addressing the “root causes” of people living rough will require it to close a downtown day centre next spring.

Wesley, a Hamilton-based non-profit that supports people experiencing poverty, homelessness, and barriers in the community, announced this week that it is “refocusing” resources. As part of that, the day centre located at 52 Catharine St. N. will be shuttered next spring, although Wesley says it will find a way to make sure the vulnerable population of Hamilton can continue to receive meals.

“Chronic homelessness in Hamilton is becoming more severe, with many people remaining in unnecessary cycles of addiction and mental health crises,” states Don Seymour, executive director of Wesley. “Individuals can recover from homelessness with persistent long-term support including harm reduction, supportive housing, and outreach workers in the community.

“This is work we are already providing through some of our programs and looking to increase in 2023. We will be refocusing our resources from emergency response to address the root causes of homelessness.

“As a result of this new focus, one of our programs, the Catharine St. North Day Centre for people experiencing homelessness will be closing in the Spring.

“We will ensure that individuals continue to receive meals as we move forward with our community partners to create programs that will deepen our support of people suffering from homelessness and help transform lives.”

Substance dependency and being unhoused often go hand-in-hand, and Hamilton has a more pronounced acute opioids poisoning crisis than the rest of Ontario.

Wesley, whose legal charitable name is Wesley Urban Ministries, draws on a base of funding from the business community, foundations, government, groups and individuals. It also offers supports in the Brant and Halton regions.

Is is likely that housing and homelessness services are Wesley’s biggest costs, surpassing the areas of children, youth, and family services and community and newcomer services. Charity Intelligence’s reporting says that in 2020, the former accounted for 41 per cent of Wesley’s costs, with the latters making up 31 and 28 respectively.

Eighty-two cents of every funding dollar went to its programs, as well.

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