With winter hitting the North Bay area hard, Dennis Chippa, the executive director at the Gathering Place, which also manages the Warming Centre, says they had to open their doors on Fisher Street earlier than ever before.
“We had nights in November where we had to open because of temperature,” said Chippa.
“We had always wanted to open fairly early in December and in that first week of December we realized we had to open because of the way the winter had arrived.”
Chippa says the Triple Link Building has been packed nearly every night.
“The drop-ins have been way higher than we have had in the past so for sure it has been an incredibly nutty and busy winter,” he said.
Chippa believes there are two key factors as to why the warming centre is so busy.
“I think this vulnerable population is having trouble finding housing,” noted Chippa.
“That is the first part, the second part is some of the folks we are seeing I think they are transitioning into town which is always what we found and I think those are the two main ones.”
Chippa believes the fact that the facility has been open on a consistent basis has led to the larger than normal numbers.
“Now that we are open on a consistent basis it has allowed the social service agencies that deal with homelessness, the agencies like ours that deal with individuals that come to eat and stuff like that,” he said.
“It has just allowed for the consistency that as long as we have a volunteer base we are going to be open that night and I think that has helped some of the folks that are on the street recognize this is a consistent thing so they don’t have to find a bank or bus shelter, they can come to the warming centre.”
Chippa says moving forward in 2019 they will conduct a street outreach in an attempt to attract some of the reluctant homeless members of the area to offer up their services.
He also praises the volunteers that work at the facility for their tireless work.
The Warming Centre is open from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. seven days a week until the weather warms up.