In late December 2018 St Felix Centre opened the doors of our second 24-Hour Respite Program site in Liberty Village. This was in response to efforts made by the City of Toronto to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community had a safe space to rest, particularly during the winter months. The program has seen a constant evolution over the years, and St. Felix Centre has been there since the very beginning. A brief history on the program:
- The program started in 2014 and was named the Extreme Cold Weather Alert program. Through it, our 25 Augusta Ave building opened its doors to offer shelter to those in need when the temperature was below -15° until the alert was lifted
- After that, the program adopted a new format and changed its name to the Winter Respite Services Program. As part of it, the Centre operated 24/7 from November 15 to April 15, offering a warm space, food, and other services to those with nowhere else to go
- And finally, the program evolved to what it is today the 24-Hour Respite Program – Our Centre remains open 24/7 all year-round, offering shelter and a wide range of support services to our guests in a safe, welcoming and respectful environment inclusive of all religions, genders, cultures, and abilities
This winter, with the opening of our new site, we were able to increase the total number of people we can support per night to 150 individuals. And what a winter it was! With more extreme cold and heavy accumulation of snow than in recent memory, January through March was a challenging time. However, with challenges come opportunities and we have been overwhelmed by the supportive response from the businesses and residents of Liberty Village.
Since opening we have met countless people who have offered a wide array of support in the form of donations, volunteer time, participation in our fundraising activities and an overall sense of welcoming.
We know that 24 hour respites are not the entire piece of the solution for homelessness but they do play an important part in ensuring that marginalized and vulnerable people in our communities are having their most essential needs met. We are eager to continue working with the City of Toronto towards longer terms solutions like permanent, affordable housing and continuing to develop our own knowledge in providing services to people with complex needs.