THUNDER BAY, ON, Aug. 19, 2017 /CNW/ - Hundreds of concerned Thunder Bay residents, including local politicians, joined in a block party at Shelter House today to raise funds for its precariously funded Street Outreach Service (SOS) program – and have a lot of fun.
"This fundraising drive was a joint initiative between Shelter House and our union," said Joe Everett, vice-president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 738, which represents employees at Shelter House. "We care deeply about SOS – and so do the people of Thunder Bay. This is the second time in matter of weeks that the community has responded with thousands of dollars to restart the program early."
The SOS program ended April 1, when the province withdrew its funding. It was due to restart in November, but in June, Nishnawbe Aski Nation hosted a fundraising barbecue for the SOS program. At the time, OPSEU Region 7 and a number of OPSEU locals contributed $2,100. Community fundraising efforts succeeded in restarting the program on Tuesday, August 15.
"But that's only till the funds recently raised run out," cautioned Everett. "Then what? People who are homeless and struggling with addictions will need this program tomorrow, next month, next year. It helps them out with shelter, transportation, and counselling. SOS also connects individuals to partner agencies that can provide even more assistance. In short, it helps rebuild lives."
Gary Mack, Shelter House's executive director, said the block party underscored the community's support for the program. "People from across Thunder Bay – and beyond – came together in a spirit of sharing and solidarity and good humour to back a vitally important program that comes to the aid of some of our most vulnerable residents.
"We're really hoping the ministry will come through with the funding we need to run the program 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the union and the community had done their part in supporting SOS. "Now it's time for the government to do its part," he added. "I trust [Community and Social Services Minister] Helena Jaczek is paying attention, because SOS needs stable government funding to ensure individuals have access to this service year‑round. The need doesn't just vanish on April 1."
SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
For further information: Joe Everett, Vice‑President, OPSEU Local 738, 807-355-5301; Gary Mack, Executive Director, Shelter House