Choices Youth Shelter in Orangeville Ontario

The Choices Youth Shelter, in Orangeville, Ontario is facing a crisis. With climbing costs, low donations and full beds, the shelter has recently been forced to turn people away due to the lack of space and room.

The emergency shelter has been under pressure these past months for operating above its usual capacities. With the arrival of winter, the shelter sees the problem of more and more people coming, further exacerbating the situation.

Mary Vervoort, executive director of the shelter talks about turning away people, “It makes me sick to my stomach. If that doesn’t keep you up at night, it should.” With the winter in the air she expects things to get worse.

The Choices shelter notes that they provided food, shelter and services to twice as many people as usual. Recently, it has been running at about 90 per cent occupancy on most nights.

“We’ve never seen this kind of usage,” Vervoort says, who thinks the increased demand is an effect of the current recession.

She notes that a surprising number of those who stayed in the shelter this year were newcomers, about 40 percent, very high from Orangeville Ontario. Many of these first timers were either laid off workers who can’t find jobs, or teenagers that belonged to families who have experienced job loss.

“They don’t have the education. They don’t get high-paying jobs. The recession has taken out a whole lot of lower-level jobs that are not going to be replaced,” Vervoorts says of the kids seeking refuge in her shelter.

Furthermore, there’s been a fall of cash donations, clearly a sign of the economic crisis. The good news however, is that donations of food and other supplies are up; cushioning the fall the shelter has taken.

“The community is very generous to us and they help where they can,” Vervoort says.

The shelter plants to hold a fundraiser at the Orangeville fairgrounds to raise money for costs and bills.

Vervoort believes that unless everyone in the community as well all government sectors take action against homelessness, the problem will continue to worsen so let’s show our less fortunate brothers and sisters more loving especially with winter just around the corner by helping out in one way or the other.

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