By John Swartz
Monday was a great day for Jay. He is moving from emergency housing at a local hotel into a bachelor apartment at The Lighthouse.
“I can’t wait to get in. Two more days to go and I move into this beautiful bachelor apartment. In this town there’s no housing like this for people on low income,” Jay said.
Jay has been homeless for 6 months. Previously he had a accommodations, but was suddenly evicted after the pandemic started.
“I trusted in the people I lived with. Information about my mental health, once I told them about that they turned their backs on me. They gave me ten days to move out and I lived there for 4 years,” said Jay.
He receives Ontario Disability Support Program benefits for mental health problems and is classified as permanently disabled. He used to be a truck driver and a courier.
“I loved meeting people and meeting the customers and just driving around. That is what I enjoyed doing, being out on the road,” Jay said. He tried to find a new place of his own, but wasn’t successful.
“As you probably know, there’s nothing out there with this pandemic on and what is out there is double the price of what normally it would be,” he said.
Lighthouse staff had to wait until the health unit approved their opening plan and once that happened they went on rush mode to get their current charges out of the hotel. It’s bit of a logistical nightmare because, even though Lighthouse staff knew people would be coming, the suddenness of being allowed to do some of what they do still meant scrambling to get everything ready.
“Because of the process to get moved in, there’s food, there’s items the housing support workers work with them (service users) over a few days to get moved in and get all the supplies. (In Jay’s case) He’s coming over to the shelter for a couple days and then he’ll move in here (to his apartment),” said Goodall.
The Lighthouse took in the first residents to its supportive housing building last week and this week is moving in the remaining 35 people who have temporarily relied on emergency housing at a local hotel to its shelter.
“There’s still people moving in today and over the next couple of weeks,” said Linda Goodall
The common areas look like an organized mess with containers of personal belongings and supplies stacked up.
“All of this is their belongings that come from the hotel. We are looking through to do an inspection, as we do, to make sure everybody’s safe and then put them in their rooms so when they arrive they’ll have their stuff available,” said Goodall.
The shelter can have 37 people occupying rooms at the moment. At capacity they have 32 men’s 18 women’s, 9 youth and one emergency room for a total of 60 people who can stay at the shelter for a month or more.
“We used to be a 30 day shelter, but because of COVID and lack of affordable housing things have changed a little bit, so it depends on the need and if they are working toward their housing goals they are welcome to stay here and work with us,” said Goodall.
The health unit won’t allow them to have maximum occupancy right now.
“We’re not allowed to use the top bunks, but we’re able to have two people with enough space between, so the City of Orillia let us use cots,” said Goodall. The cots were previously used for Ontario Winter Games participants.
Jay is excited about his housing. He has a desk, bed, bathroom, closet space and windows.
“That was the first thing I picked up on, it’s so bright and cheery,” he said. He also has a full kitchen with a sink, stove, cupboards and refrigerator.
“That’s’ another thing,” he said, “I love to cook. There’s one thing my mom taught me is how to cook. I see a full stove, the last place I lived in for 4 years didn’t have a stove, it just had a little hot plate. This, I’m just going to be in heaven, not only can I cook, I can bake.”
Jay is also looking forward to the other perks of being accepted as a resident in the supportive housing program. People who get into the program have a few years to get their lives on track to being self supporting, so the Lighthouse has many programs to help sort the reasons which lead to them becoming homeless and to be able to make their way on their own.
“I’m looking forward to moving in here because we have all different services that are going to be provided for people like me. It’s exactly what I need to get myself back on track,” Jay said. “It’s also tough on your networking. This place is going to help me with numerous areas in my life that I need to work on,”
One of the ways residents are able to put some order into their lives is by becoming Lighthouse volunteers; there are numerous jobs that need to be taken care of on a regular basis.
“Once he gets established and settled then we’re always looking for our supportive housing participants to be part of The Lighthouse. We have a green team, we have a blue team and all these different teams to help out,” said Goodall.
“That makes sense too, to give back,” Jay added.
The cafeteria was opened earlier in August and residents in both supportive housing and the shelter can get three meals a day.
“Only the people staying in the shelter will eat here, everybody else, the public, will still have a sandwich outreach program outside,” said Goodall.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: Jay is looking forward to occupying his new living quarters.