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Published November 9, 2022 at 1:46 pm
Durham Region asked, and the Town of Ajax delivered.
The Central Park Ajax Pavilion at the Ajax Plaza will transition to a temporary homeless shelter this winter after Ajax Council unanimously approved the motion Tuesday morning.
The space is currently vacant and can hold as many as 30 people at one time.
The motion was introduced by Mayor Shaun Collier in response to a request by the Region asking for potential temporary emergency shelter sites for the 2022-2023 winter season. Ajax is the first municipality to respond to the request.
The temporary shelter, located at 27 Station Street, will help to address Ajax’s current unsheltered population by providing them the sufficient space to stay as well as be connected to resources to help them find permanent housing.
The Town has been working with Durham Region, who will be responsible for transitioning shelter clients should either party decide the terminate the lease agreement, and local service providers since the pre-pandemic days and the Ajax Mayor’s Gala has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to address homelessness.
The establishment of the emergency shelter would be the Town’s biggest concrete action to address homelessness to date, outside of those Mayor’s Gala contributions.
“Ajax has been vocal in its acknowledgement of the existing homelessness challenges within our community and continues to make the ongoing issue of individuals living unsheltered in the Town a priority,” said Collier. “I am proud of this Council for recognizing the importance of supporting the approval of this temporary space for our vulnerable population, working to resolve the overpopulated shelters and ensure more individuals have access to necessary resources to make the search for permanent housing easier.”
The Region will be working closely with service providers in Ajax, such as the Ajax Hub and the street outreach team, to connect individuals and families who are currently living unsheltered in Ajax to programming at 27 Station Street.
The Town will also be working with the Region to finalize any necessary processes and measures needed for this site. As the location is temporary, the Town has also declared that if there is a need for the land in the future Ajax would be “open” to Durham Region relocating the structure to another appropriate site.
“Recommendations that address the existing homelessness challenges in Ajax will serve to alleviate the capacity at current shelters and ensure unsheltered individuals receive the assistance they require,” noted Regional Councillor Joanne Dies. “The support and approval of this temporary emergency shelter is the Town’s most impactful action to address homelessness to date and is a significant step in the right direction to overcome these challenges.”
Town staff explored the potential space internally with representatives from Fire and Emergency Services, Planning & Development, By-law and Public & Strategic Affairs, followed by on-site and virtual meetings with the Region’s Social Services department. The former sales pavilion at 27 Station Street was chosen as the emergency shelter space due to its proximity to other homelessness supports and amenities.
Over the course of the pandemic, there has been a sustained increase in homelessness, and in recent months, shelters across the Region are operating at beyond 100 percent capacity. According to Durham’s most recent statistics at least 289 citizens were experiencing homelessness in September, with 175 of those having been homeless for six months or longer.
The Region is planning several improvements to make the building (which will be open 24 hours a day) suitable for the intended use, including plumbing upgrades, the addition of two bathrooms, accessibility updates, layout changes and security upgrades.
Christian Faith Outreach Centre will manage the daily operations, with all related costs to be absorbed by the Region. The Centre currently operates the Ajax Hub, a support hub for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and Doors of Compassion, a 20-bed housing focused shelter.
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