Kenora’s emergency shelter project is coming together. The shelter's currently being operated out of the Northwestern Health Unit offices on Matheson Street. If all goes well, renovations at the new location – Knox United Church – will be completed by October.
Henry Wall, Chief Administrative Officer with the Kenora District Services Board, offered an update on the project.
“There’s still a few things that have to be put into place, with regards to awarding a design contract for the architectural services, the engineering part of it. After that, issue the request for proposal for the construction. We’re fairly confident that the engineering, design and construction pieces will be in place by October. It will be tight, but we’re confident. There’s still work that needs to be finalized with all of our partners. Funding, services and so forth. A lot of pieces are happening simultaneously,” he said.
Kenora Councillors all voted in favour of the proposal in January. The operation will be in partnership with the NeChee Friendship Centre. Wall noted that the KDSB has received support of the project from a variety of community partners, and detailed how it has helped to push the expansive project along.
“What is really encouraging about this whole process, is that we’re able to have these conversations and developments that don’t need to be linear. Very often you would need a lease first, you go through all of these steps, and it can really draw out a project over a long period of time. In good faith, and this commitment to doing something better in Kenora, we’re able to have these developments simultaneously. We remain quite confident that come October we'll be able to open the doors to a really cool community piece of infrastructure. Then we can talk about what’s next. We need to have new housing built with supports in Kenora and Dryden, so people don’t end up in the emergency shelter. We need to build affordable housing, affordable senior housing and affordable family housing. Those are all pieces that are happening as well,” he said.
The Kenora District Services Board is hoping to establish an additional 150 supportive housing units this year, with 60 to 80 of those units being brand new builds.
With their recently approved 2018 budget, which includes a $13 million increase, the board has also expanded emergency services with more land ambulance crews in the region, along with more childcare and social supports.