A program that offered support and services to Thunder Bay’s homeless and underhoused community is shutting down permanently.
Shelter House announced Thursday the Street Outreach Service (SOS) program is being discontinued due to a lack of funding.
Cal Rankin, executive director of Shelter House — which runs the SOS program — said funding comes from the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board and the city, with the shelter funding the rest directly through fundraising efforts.
He said the SOS program costs about $327,000 per year to operate.
“We’re kind of tapped right now, and we are unable to continue funding it,” he said of the SOS program, adding the funding will instead go to Shelter House’s food and sheltering programs.
A shortage of staff is also an issue, Rankin said.
“We couldn’t get people to work at the shelter or SOS,” he said. “So we were pulling from our sheltering program to run SOS.”
“We are at skeleton staff to begin with,” Rankin said. “COVID really complicated things, it made it so difficult for us to staff properly, and we didn’t want to compromise the safety of our staff, or our clients.”
The SOS program was launched in 2014, and provided services to those experiencing homelessness in the city, including transportation to shelters.
“This type of service is important, but at the same time, I think it’s a bit of a band-aid solution,” Rankin said. “The real thing that is required to resolve our issue of homelessness is housing, and we need specifically housing that will meet the needs of a population that can be tough to serve.”