Permanent funding for HDGH homelessness initiative

Breanna Pomeroy talks about the HDGH MOST program at Windsor City Hall, July 9, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

An innovative program that addresses Windsor’s homelessness issue is no longer just a pilot project.

Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) has paired up with the City of Windsor and several other community agencies to provide support through the Mobile Outreach Support Team (MOST). MOST is a mobile unit that visits certain areas of the city, providing guidance and referrals to those who are vulnerable. In addition to homelessness, mental health and addiction-related issues are also addressed.

The pilot project made its debut on the streets of Windsor in late January, at the cost of $100,000. Through April 30, the MOST team recorded 849 visits. Of those, 94 per cent were given supplies, and 57 per cent received referrals. Seventy-four per cent of those seeking help were male, according to HDGH.

On Tuesday, it was announced that the MOST program would be permanently-funded for at least double the original sum. The funding was announced during a media event at Windsor City Hall, with Mayor Drew Dilkens and representatives from those community partners present.

Janice Kaffer, president and CEO of Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, said she was floored by how much MOST has accomplished in those six months and is looking forward to the growth now possible with the permanent funding.

“If you look at what we’ve done with the first $100,000, we’ve been able to do a fair bit with a small amount of money,” said Kaffer. “Our piece here is that this is the beginning. It isn’t the kind of money that you would change the world on, but it’s an important piece of funding.”

Adrienne Payne, an outreach worker with MOST and one of the partners, Family Services Windsor-Essex, is out with the MOST team on most evenings, ready to provide basic necessities and service to those in need.

“We have basic needs, hygiene and food,” said Payne. “We also have gift cards, and someone can use them to get out of the cold or the heat, and we also provide community referrals.”

A haul of 500 $5 TimCards was delivered at the media event by Vicky Green, owner of a Tim Hortons franchise in downtown Windsor, to help support the effort by MOST to provide the vulnerable with a chance to get something to eat or drink.

One success story shared came from Breanna Pomeroy, an addict in recovery. A native of Winnipeg, she came to Windsor and became involved with a man who was part of the sex trafficking trade. She has since been clean and is the mother to a healthy two-month-old girl.

While she did not benefit directly from MOST, Pomeroy wanted to get involved in helping people who were in her situation.

“I did have an opportunity to go and see the MOST van and be a part of it for the night, see how they were interacting with people and provide some tidbits, and also learn from the experience and how I can continue to work my recovery,” said Pomeroy.

A final report on the six-month pilot period is due out this fall.

The outreach team is available from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. weeknights at various locations, including the main downtown library. The complete summer schedule is available at the program’s official webpage.