Royal City Mission is one step closer to extending its drop-in hours in Downtown Guelph, helping community members in need by providing them with a warming/cooling centre and free meals.
Prior to 2020, its drop-in services were only running four hours a day. They increased to eight over the pandemic on an emergency basis, with the help of emergency funding from the housing division. As of this month, they are serving 150 to 170 meals each day, with lunch and dinner being provided Monday to Friday and dinner on Saturdays.
But now that the pandemic is dying down, the funding from those grants is running out, and RCM is looking to secure a more permanent funding stream to continue operating and extend its hours.
This is because the need for drop-in services is actually higher than it was during the pandemic. Prior to, pastor and executive director Kevin Coghill said the community of people accessing its services typically sat around 200 to 300 people. In the last year, that number has gone up to 1,000.
Even so, longer hours seemed like a pipe dream until the county approached them about extending its services an extra four hours.
“We can get there, it’s just a matter of funding,” said Mark Anderson, pastor and managing director.
To continue offering its drop-in services eight hours a day, six days a week, they need a total of $429,162. An additional $99,405 is needed to extend the hours for 2023.
They are requesting a total of $278,722 in community funds, and have agreed to contribute the remainder from its own donations. The budget will be revisited in 2024.
At a meeting on Wednesday, the County of Wellington Social Services Committee recommended the funding be approved by council. You can read the report here.
Next steps include presenting the proposal at a county meeting later this month to approve the budget, and a city meeting in mid-December to formally approve its contribution.
However, the mission said if it receives the funding from public donations before the December decision, it would be able to “ramp up right away.”
This would be ideal, as they would love “to be able to have 12 hours during the cold weather, because there really is pretty limited space right now for people that are struggling,” Coghill said. “Lots of things are no longer open for people to go in during the day, so it would be good for the community.”
Otherwise, the earliest it will happen is January – though they said likely later, since they would need time to hire staff.
“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Anderson said. “Not the opportunity for growth, but the opportunity to be able to serve our community better. And when we say community, these people are our friends.”
RCM relies heavily on volunteers, and will need even more if its hours are extended in the winter. You can learn more or donate by visiting its website.