A program that provided support and services to Thunder Bay’s homeless and underserved community is permanently ending.
Shelter House announced on Thursday that the Street Outreach Service (SOS) program is being suspended due to a lack of funding.
Cal Rankin, chief executive of Shelter House — which runs the SOS program — said funding comes from the Thunder Bay County and city social services management committee, with the shelter funding the rest directly through fundraisers.
He said the SOS program costs about $327,000 a year to run.
“We’re kind of exhausted at the moment and we can’t continue to fund it,” he said of the SOS program, adding that the funds will go to Shelter House’s food and shelter programs instead.
Staff shortages are also a problem, Rankin said.
“We couldn’t get people to work at the shelter or at SOS,” he said. “So we withdrew from our protection program to run SOS.”
“First, we’re on the state of emergency,” Rankin said. “COVID has really complicated things, it’s made it so difficult for us to staff properly and we didn’t want to compromise the safety of our employees or our customers.”
The SOS program was launched in 2014 and provided services for the city’s homeless, including transport to emergency shelters.
“That kind of service is important, but at the same time I think it’s kind of a band-aid solution,” Rankin said. “To solve our homelessness problem, we really need housing, and we specifically need housing that meets the needs of a population that is difficult to service.”