GUELPH & WELLINGTON TASK FORCE FOR POVERTY ELIMINATION
With the arrival of winter and cold temperatures, the Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination brought partners together to introduce a community cold weather response for people experiencing homelessness.
The response directs those who see someone on the street in need of non-emergency assistance to call Guelph Police Service (519-824- 1212), Wellington County O.P.P. (519-846-5930), or HERE 24/7 (1-844-437-3247).
Police, including the Integrated Mobile Police and Crisis Teams, will work with HERE 24/7 and emergency shelter providers, Wyndham House and Welcome In Drop In Centre, to facilitate finding and getting to emergency shelter.
“While our community has ensured that we have the ability to provide short-term emergency shelter beds to meet the need, it is vital that those experiencing housing crisis get immediate access to available beds and additional beds – particularly during the cold weather,” said Debbie Lauzon, Executive Director at Wyndham House. “This community cold weather response will help ensure that those who are homeless stay safe and warm this winter.”
The need to involve Guelph Police Service and Wellington County O.P.P. was identified, in part, by a local report on homelessness that was released by the Guelph-Wellington 20,000 Homes Campaign earlier this year.
In the report, it was identified that those experiencing homelessness had over 1000 interactions with police in a six-month period, a significantly higher number of interactions compared to other emergency services.
“After learning about the number of interactions between police and those experiencing homelessness, participation in this great initiative was seen as an opportunity to not only reach out to those in need, but to demonstrate that police do care about those whom we serve,” noted Community Resource Officer Gary Mulder, with Guelph Police Service.
In addition to introducing a cold weather response plan, partners have come together to fund cold weather survival kits for police cruisers. The kits include blankets, wool socks, toques and gloves.
The distribution of kits by police will be in addition to efforts by the Guelph Community Health Centre, who distribute kits to those who are homeless or under-housed.
Donations to the Winter Survival Campaign can be made online at www.guelphchc.ca (select “Winter Survival Kits” from the drop down menu to make a donation).