Erin Goodyear, Dufferin Men’s Shelter director, sitting on the front steps of the shelter that opened in Orangeville earlier this year. – Rebecca Weston/Metroland Rebecca Weston, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It’s only been open since March, but already Dufferin Men’s Shelter is facing the threat of closure. 

The shelter’s director, Erin Goodyear appeared before Dufferin County’s health and human services committee on Aug. 28 looking for help to fill a $346,100 funding gap that would help the Townline Road shelter keep its doors open for the rest of the year.

Goodyear, who had appeared before Orangeville town council earlier in the month to sound the alarm, asked the county committee for $116,000 to help with spending. She explained that the shelter is only looking for a fraction of the money as they only opened in March and the gap is merely a projection for a full year.

“Right now, we don’t have a (potential) close date and I just want to be really clear about that,” Goodyear said. “We are doing everything we can with our community partners to brainstorm and collaborate and to ask for help in order to keep the doors open.”

The shelter gets its funding from Dufferin County and was given $163,000 for this first year. However, Goodyear, who also serves as the executive director of Choices Youth Shelter, estimated it will cost $509,100 annually to operate the men’s shelter. The demand, she said, is there, noting the shelter has grown immensely since its opening day — going from six beds to 20, and has housed seven men so far.

For those paying attention, this is history repeating itself. The Dufferin Men’s Shelter first opened in August 2021, but closed just two months later due to lack of funding. Goodyear is hoping not to see a similar fate this time around. 

The committee agreed that the shelter is vital to the community and is open to discussing a budget after getting a strategic business plan.

“I absolutely agree this is a necessary element that we have to have available for a population so pleased that it was able to open … I hope that it can carry on,” Coun. Gail Little, deputy mayor of Amaranth, said in the meeting.

County councillor and Orangeville Mayor Lisa Post said not having a business plan is a missing piece that is setting up the shelter for failure.

“I don’t mean that negatively, but if there’s not a plan for sustainable funding, as we’re seeing less than six months later, we’re at a point where we could potentially see a closing,” Post said. “I think that we’ve demonstrated that there’s a need in our community for a program of this sort that will help men and I would hate to see it close because I think that you’re on the track to do something really great.”

Brian Scott, a Choices Youth Shelter board member, said one of the biggest challenges they faced when starting to look at different funding areas was a lack of data and hard numbers.

“To wait for a whole other year to open it once we had some potentially more secure funding from somewhere, that just means more people on the street, and we weren’t willing to do that,” Scott said. “So, we took a chance to open this.”

“We will do everything we can to make sure we get the data to you, and we hope that you will work with us to find some kind of options and advocate on our behalf as well to other areas that might be able to support us.”

Since Goodyear first made their funding woes public, she said the community has come together and began fundraising on social media to contribute to the costs. She said people are taking the time to do this unilaterally on their own rather than asking if the shelter wants help. The Barley Vine Rail held a fundraiser Sunday, with all proceeds going to the shelter. 

“People in our community are trying to stand with us as well so not only are our community partners outreaching to help me and our board but also the community itself is unbelievable,” she said. 

According to a Dufferin County media release, in 2021, one in 10 people were living in poverty in the county and one in nine households were living in core housing needs.

The shelter provides additional services to people who are just looking for advice and not a place to sleep.

“We have calls almost every day from people in the community asking for support, asking for guidance, asking for ways to make ends meet,” Goodyear said.

“It’s really important to say that we are absolutely filled with gratefulness about how the county as a community is coming together to provide support for this really vital service to continue to grow and thrive and we want to say thank you.”

By Rebecca Weston, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 08, 2023 at 09:02

This item reprinted with permission from   Orangeville Citizen   Orangeville, Ontario

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