New warming centre for unsheltered in Whitby

Erin Valant is the manager lead for the homelessness program in Durham Region. Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Erin Valant

A new warming centre for homeless people has opened in downtown Whitby.

Whitby has partnered with the Salvation Army and the Region of Durham to make a temporary space available for people without homes.

The Salvation Army is providing trained and professional staffing to support people who are staying there and make sure they get connected to the rest of the support system in the region.

The warming centre, located at 117 King St., near the main branch of the Whitby library, is open evenings and overnights for anyone looking for a safe and warm place to stay, according to Erin Valant, Durham’s manager of affordable housing and homelessness initiatives.

There’s space for up to 10 people on a first-come, first-served basis, she says.

The warming centre is open seven days a week.

Valant says the region has partnered with community agencies across Durham to provide a wide range of support in an attempt to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.

“We have programs and services to support people who are actively experiencing homelessness. So that is through our housing focus shelter from overnight learning centre programs during the winter, and then also with our street outreach strategy and the street outreach teams,” says Valant.

She says these temporary measures help respond to the increased demand over the winter months. However, the region is focused on creating more permanent housing placements and expanding shelter capacity across the system by increasing housing outflows and getting people out of shelters faster, adds Valant.

Durham Region uses a software system called HIFIS (Homeless Individuals and Families Information System). This system helps document people so they don’t have to share their stories repeatedly as they access services, says Valant.

“We’re really focused on future prevention. So how can we get better at homelessness prevention, even further upstream, so that we stop having people become homeless in the first place?,” says Valant.

According to a report released last summer, at least 177 people in Durham were experiencing homelessness.

Ninety-three of them had experienced chronic homelessness, meaning they had been without a home for six months or longer.

Valant says Durham continues to support all people without homes and is committed to ending chronic homelessness so anybody looking for a safe and warm place to sleep can do so.