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Volunteer Bureau to be a warming centre

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The Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau, located in the old CN station on Fourth Street West here, soon will be able to be used as a warming centre.

Late last month, the Fort Frances Homeless Committee had requested use of the East End Hall as a temporary pop-up shelter through April.

Since then, however, town staff determined it was not a suitable location for such a use.

Mayor June Caul explained that the hall not only is too far from the downtown core but, as a public building, it cannot be used as a place to sleep overnight as per town bylaws and the Building Code.

As well, the rink shack is accessible from the upstairs in the hall and it could be not be closed off properly.

So Mayor Caul had Fire Capt. Wayne Riches and Chief Building Official Tyson Dennis, joined by Jamie Petrin and Sandra Weir from the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board, come to her office at the Civic Centre to discuss other options.

“Something had to be done," she stressed. "I was so concerned because it was so cold and it wasn't getting any better.”

Mayor Caul then contacted Judy Koski from the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau about using part of that building.

The Volunteer Bureau board had already had a meeting about the situation and had agreed to lend some of the hall space there to the local DSSAB if it chose to use it.

Mayor Caul, Capt. Riches, Dennis, Petrin, and Weir then toured the Volunteer Bureau to determine what needed to be done so it could be used as a warming centre.

“It was determined that, yes, it was a spot they [the DSSAB{ could use for a warm-up shelter,” Mayor Caul noted, though adding that, like the East End Hall, it cannot have cots.

Mayor Caul said she has contacted the Fort Frances Family Centre on Scott Street, which lately has had its doors open 24/7 to provide a warm place for those who need it.

“They're awesome. They've gone above and beyond in what they had planned on doing,” she lauded, noting it will continue to stay open until the new warming centre is up and running at the Volunteer Bureau.

People will be able to access the hall from the door at the rear. The front door will be locked, as will doors to the offices located inside the building, noted Mayor Caul.

The hall will be open from 7 p.m.-7 a.m., and includes tables, chairs, a fridge, and a stove.

The family centre, meanwhile, has plenty of blankets, pillows, and warm clothes that will be taken over to the Volunteer Bureau once it opens, Mayor Caul said.

“If someone dozes off in a chair, that's fine. You just can't have the beds,” she remarked.

It also will be monitored by volunteers.

As previously reported, the homeless committee still has a long-term goal of having a more permanent and appropriate space for a shelter here, as well as transitional units to provide a path out of homelessness.

Comprised of front-line service providers of non-profit agencies spanning social services, employment, legal, and health-care sectors, the committee is dedicated to finding solutions to homelessness in Rainy River District.

It also has been working toward strengthening social supports, as well as looking for immediate and preventative solutions.

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