Belleville’s first homeless shelter in a decade is set to open at some point in early December.
The Grace Inn Shelter is located in what was once the Irish Hall on Church Street, just off the corner of Station Street.
Former city councillor Jodie Jenkins is the board chair for the new shelter, which is nearing the end of renovations.
Jenkins was involved in a pilot project shelter over a decade ago, but since then, the city has had no form of temporary overnight housing.
Jenkins says the need for a shelter has grown over the years and is more acute than some residents realize.
Some of that is because some forms of homelessness are invisible to the casual observer, according to Jenkins.
“People that are sleeping in porches of people’s friends’ houses, couch surfing, people sleeping in vehicles — you don’t see it like someone sleeping in a park,” Jenkins said.
There will be a total of 21 beds, Jenkins says, 16 for men and five for women.
“The gap identified in our community, and I think most communities — it’s not unique to us — is that men are lacking with bed space for shelters,” she said.
Unlike some shelters, each bed is semi-private.
The board chair says they call them pods, and each one will be equipped with a locker for personal items.
“There’s an element of respect, dignity for these individuals [who] often feel like that is gone,” Jenkins said.
Located in the downtown area, Jenkins says the shelter is close to a lot of the resources its clients need.
“We’d like to have this as a hub where we connect people with the resources they need,” she said, “such as mental health resources, addiction resources, employment resources — you know, resume-building.”
Renovating the building has cost approximately $700,000, a bill that could have been higher if not for donations of time and goods by tradespeople, Jenkins says.
“Whether it’s our amazing electricians, whether it’s the plumbers, the guys putting the windows in, a lot of them have said, ‘look, Jodie, what can we do for you?” she said.
“What can we do for this project?”
The shelter is also equipped with showers, laundry facilities and a commercial kitchen that Jenkins says could be used to serve meals to people in need, beyond the ones that will be staying at the shelter.
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