Concerns about Transition House

by Robert Washburn

The head of a local poverty activist group says Northumberland County officials failed to collaborate or consult with their community partners when they decided to name Transition House as the new emergency shelter for the region.

Greenwood Coalition Community Services Director David Sheffield said Tuesday the announcement by the county last week naming Transition House as the successful candidate to deliver accommodations for homeless people was a disappointment.

“The quality of collaboration with the county leaves a lot to be desired,” he said.

Sheffield said the county is the leader when it comes to affordable housing in Northumberland.

“If this is not a good plan, then the county will own it,” he said.

However, one official said the county did a comprehensive job when it put out a request for
proposals earlier this year.

Sarah Tanner, the community services manager for the county, said Transition House met all the requirements and met all standards. Also, while it was the only agency to submit a proposal, all concerns from the past were addressed.

“It was a very solid proposal,” she said, adding it is not unusual for only one agency to apply.

The request for proposals sent out by the county earlier this year gave strict guidelines regarding what the county expected, she added.

“We proceeded carefully with the procurement. Transition House was the successful candidate.
We are happy to work with them,” she said.

Northumberland County Community and Social Services Director Lisa Horne echoed her confidence.

Horne said the longstanding commitment to providing a safe and compassionate emergency shelter for residents was a significant factor in the decision. The county looks forward to collaborating to ensure a best practice operation is fully integrated into the community’s
homeless needs, she said.

There will be new staff and training will also take place to remedy previous concerns.

A staff person was injured and damage done to Transition House on Chapel Street following a
violent incident in late November.

This caused the shelter to be closed on Dec. 12, while repairs were done to the building.

It provided 24 beds for individuals and families, along with some support programs to assist people in stabilizing their lives to get permanent housing, financial assistance, medical attention, and employment.

The Ministry of Labour completed an investigation late last year following the incident, ordering the board of directors to do additional training and a risk assessment, which was submitted in December.

Then, in January, the county pulled its financial support from the project, about $250,000. It was the majority of the shelter’s funding.

Emergency shelter is available through Northumberland County Community and Social Services, along with some other agencies including Salvation Army Community and Family Services, the Help Centre of Northumberland, the Green Wood Coalition, Cornerstone Family Violence
Prevention Centre and Anishnaabe Kwewag Gamig women’s shelter in Alderville.

However, for Sheffield the situation is worrisome.

“I’m a bit confused by the information provided (by a recent press release from the county) and surprised the agreement is moving ahead without consultation with community partners who have been managing the homeless crisis in the absence of a shelter,” he said.

Sheffield is particularly critical of emergency shelter’s officials.

“Transition House leadership broke faith with vulnerable, homeless individuals, including children, and community social agencies when they closed, with 48 hours notice, a few days before Christmas,” he added.

This is compounded by the absence of representatives from the shelter in anything that has been done over the past seven months around homelessness.

The county leads a Homelessness Response Team that meets regularly to set priorities for finding shelter for homeless people. Sheffield said the idea of having Transition House reinstated as the emergency shelter was never raised at those meeting or individually.

Tanner responded by saying anyone worried about the decision should contact the county. She welcomes any feedback.

Preparations are underway, and it is expected to be fully operational by the fall of 2018.