PARRY SOUND – A men’s emergency shelter may not get any government funding any time soon to make it a reality, but the Safe and Sound House for Men committee, led by George Sopher, keeps chipping away at it.
Safe and Sound
Sopher, a recovering alcoholic, has been working for about three years to bring a men’s emergency shelter to Parry Sound. In that time, Safe and Sound House for Men became a not-for-profit charity organization and he’s brought groups, organizations and individuals together to brainstorm for ideas on the home would include and how to make it a reality.
With no government funding through, the idea seems destined to stay on paper for the time being, and Sopher said he’s getting frustrated with the process.
“I’ve just taken it as far as I can and I’m to the point now where I want to quit but I can’t,” said Sopher. “I love it, the idea has to be done. I know it’s a need.”
Over a year ago, there were talks with Canada Mortgage and Housing and the Parry Sound District Social Services Administrative Board, but that’s when the brakes went on, said John Lee, grants development officer with the West Parry Sound Health Centre.
“As far as I understand it, all housing under the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the brakes have been put on any funding,” he said last month ahead of the provincial and federal budget. “As far as the ministry itself is concerned, there are no new envelopes for funding…as far as the federal government level, the provincial level and access to reasonable funds on the municipal level – there isn’t any.”
The 2012-2013 provincial and federal budgets announced last month didn’t include any new money for housing.
Another issue that needs tackling is finding an organization that’d take on the health and safety liability of a shelter for men with addiction problems and mental health issues.
“The other issue George has got, and I’ve been supporting him right from the beginning with money for the feasibility study…the problem with it is it’s hard to find an organization that will sponsor the shelter and act as the guarantor, the sort of overseer from a governance perspective because of the liability.”
Despite the obstacles, Sopher keeps bringing like-minded people together. In March, he met with a fledgling group in Bracebridge that is proposing a men’s shelter there, representatives of a Muskoka jail, a friendship centre representative, the Parry Sound District Social Service Board and others.
“We got some new ideas as far as the three (area) not-for-proft housing organizations getting together and putting in a little bit and we end up with a piece of property somewhere or a building to use,” said Sopher, stressing it’s still just an idea. “The thing is right now it’s all a dream, but until everybody comes with all the pieces the dream will never materialize, right. We’re still in that ‘where do we go for funding, who do we ask, what are we going to do, what kind of facility, who’s going to help us’ stage.”
In the meantime, men in need can go to the Salvation Army and DSSAB.