The Warming Room is a collaborative project between several non-profit organizations in Peterborough with the support of the City of Peterborough and the Canadian Mental Health Association.
The purpose of this project is to provide extra emergency shelter space during the cold winter months. Homelessness in Peterborough is on the rise, while emergency and subsidized housing funding is being cut.
Peterborough today has only 80 shelter beds altogether and only one shelter location for men. In 2011, there were over 17,000 shelter bed days in Peterborough, and over 1,300 individuals used shelter beds.
All over Canada, for many reasons, poverty is on the rise and the gap between the rich and poor is growing larger. According to the City of Peterborough’s 2012 Housing is Fundamental report, poverty rates in Peterborough are exceptionally high and rising.
Over the past couple of years, the number of Ontario Works caseloads have increased, more people are spending a greater percentage of their incomes on housing, and food bank use has showed huge increases as well. Ontario Works benefits for a single person is only $606 per month, much less than the cost of a one bedroom apartment.
There are well over a thousand people on Peterborough’s subsidized housing wait lists and, depending on personal circumstances, the wait can be up to 15 years. Compounding this, according to Statistics Canada, there are significantly more people living with mental illness in Peterborough than in other parts of Ontario. All of this adds up to more people becoming homeless and facing the bitter winter chill of Southern Ontario without a roof over their heads.
The Warming Room is a completely volunteer-run initiative. Volunteers will commit to 11 shifts over the course of the winter, amounting to about one shift every two weeks. The shifts are from 6pm to 1am, and 1am to 7am. “Volunteers will have an amazing opportunity to get to know the homeless community, service-providing organizations, and will get to network with other volunteers,” says Chris Blencoe.
Blencoe and Rebecca Butler are the nursing students who are coordinating this project as part of their community placement. Volunteers are encouraged to sign up with friends so they can get to and from the shelter safely. Student volunteers will also receive references, training certificates, and an entry on their co-curricular record. If you would like more information, or are interested in volunteering, e-mail us at [email protected]