Shelter for Those Who Have No Place to Stay Warm

Jeromy, left, and a team from The Salvation Army fundraise to provide winter shelter

On October 12, 2018, Jeromy, who has experienced homelessness, and over 80 people from the community of Fort Frances, Ont., spent the night lining the main street with chairs, sleeping bags and mattresses to raise awareness around the issue of homelessness and funds for winter shelter.

“People experiencing homelessness are sleeping in the bush, on building vents and in sewers. With cold weather on the horizon, shelter is definitely needed,” says Jill Pernisky of The Salvation Army.

The ‘longest night of the year’ was an event initiated by Pernisky and the Fort Frances Homeless Committee that is made up of representatives of local service agencies. Participants included representatives from community services agencies, concerned citizens, a mayoral candidate, a local councillor and people experiencing homelessnss.

“More than $16,000 was raised that will allow us to open a pop-up shelter at a local church,” says Pernisky. “The Salvation Army will assist with volunteers and by providing coats, boots and food services.”

The hope of the committee is to get funding for a permanent shelter.

“The community is behind us and willing to help because they have been informed,” says Pernisky. “This winter, there is hope for those who need a safe, dry, warm place to get a good night’s sleep.”

Jeromy’s story

“This time last year I was homeless,” says Jeromy. “I know what shelter can do. It saves lives.”

Jeromy, 40, is an iron worker and welder who fell into addiction and homelessness.

“I was working 14-hour days and feeling overwhelmed and stressed when I was offered heroin the way home from work,” says Jeromy. “That’s where my struggles began. The drug made me sick and I was unable to work. Then I fell behind on my rent.

“For one and a half years I slept in a park, on the ground, in the cold―exposed to hypothermia and frostbite― surrounded by insects. I was fortunate to be able to spend a few nights here and there in a shelter.”

Jeromy says there is a stereotype to homelessness that isn’t even close to the reality.

“Sometimes the public views all homeless people as addicts or evil. I found they are the most honest and giving people I know. They have just met with hard times such as divorce or unemployment. Sometimes they use drugs to escape their reality.”

Jeromy wanted to overcome his addiction and left Vancouver for Fort Frances where he was born and raised. He got clean, found stable housing, part-time work and volunteers with The Salvation Army.

“When you live on the streets people look down at you as worthless. You get used to it and it’s not good. Sometimes we just need a little help, such as shelter. People make better choices when they don’t have to worry about where they will sleep that night.”