New site found for Indigenous-led homeless shelter

Photo from Atlohsa Healing Services Facebook page.

Two weeks after fire destroyed the planned site of an Indigenous-led homeless shelter in London’s east-end, a new location has been secured.

Atlohsa Family Healing Services and the City of London announced on Tuesday that the winter pop-up shelter for Indigenous people experiencing homelessness will now be located on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Parkwood Institute. The space near the corner of Commissioners Road and Wellington Road backs onto Westminster Ponds.

“We are very excited to be able to offer an Indigenous-led winter response in a safe location that meets the needs of our community members and staff,” Atlohsa Executive Director Raymond Deleary said in a statement. “We have been overwhelmed with positive community response following the fire at River Road, and we extend our gratitude to those who have reached out with offers of support. Prior to colonization, there was a place in our communities for everyone. The support we have received from St. Joseph’s and the wider London community reminds us of our shared values of kindness, respect and inclusivity.”

It was announced in late October that the city would establish two temporary homeless shelters over the winter months at two city-run golf courses – one at River Road Golf Course and the other at Fanshawe Golf Course. But just over a week after the plans became public, the clubhouse at River Road was the site of a $1-million fire. A 54-year-old City of London employee has been charged with arson in relation to the blaze. He has been suspended with pay from his job and is scheduled to appear in court February 7.

The partnership with St. Joseph’s Health Care London builds on one already established with Atlohsa through the Biigajiiskaan Indigenous Mental Wellness program.

“St. Joseph’s has a long history as an organization that cares for the most vulnerable in our society. We believe we must work together as a community to find meaningful solutions that address homelessness in our city,” said Roy Butler, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s.

Butler also disclosed the Indigenous-led homeless shelter will place two large trailers and two teepees on the hospital grounds and have access to a currently not-in-use stand-alone building. It is expected the space will offer shelter and supports to up to 30 Indigenous people over the winter months.