Shelter in limbo

Dawn House facing review by the City

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The operators of Dawn House, a 10-bed shelter for high-risk women and children, fears the city is pushing for their closure.

“We’ve been a real staple in the community,” said Kathy Bauder, chair of the shelter’s board. “If anything [the City] should be looking at expanding us because we’re usually full.” The City, however, says they simply wish to ensure funding for the shelter is effectively spent. Giving $300,000 to Dawn House annually, the City provides the majority of the funding the shelter receives.

Through the AMS opt-out fee of $0.85 and SGPS opt-out fee of $1, the Queen’s community provides over $15,000 in funds to Dawn House annually.

Following an operational review of Kingston’s shelters by the City in 2011, certain issues of concern were identified with Dawn House in particular. The City ordered a report to be compiled and presented to city council reviewing the operations of the shelter, including its budget, management and the types of programming provided.

Both the shelter and the City agree that Dawn House has experienced multiple instabilities with their management with various executive directors quitting due to the high-stress nature of the job. Since the City’s request for a closer review, a significant number of board members have also quit.

A recent status report on the shelter, compiled by the City, was released on Tuesday to city council.

If the shelter doesn’t meet certain recommendations and expectations that the City has established, funding can be withheld.

These recommendations include submitting finance reports on time on a monthly basis and organizing new types of programming for the shelter’s residents.

The City will be monitoring the shelter over the next year and reporting back to council by June.

“We need our funding, we need to stay open, we need to service these women because if we close, there’s no place for them to go,” Bauder said.

Dawn House is the only shelter in Kingston that takes in high-risk women — those struggling with mental health issues or drug abuse.

Due to the instability in management, fundraising efforts have been minimal over the past few years, but the shelter looks to focus more on these efforts in the upcoming year, Bauder said.

“[The City’s] really not cutting us any slack,” Bauder said. “They’re not really giving us time to build a good solid board or do the things that they’ve asked.”

The City has said they don’t wish to close down the shelter.

“We’re supportive of their operation,” said Sheldon Laidman, director of the City’s housing department. “They provide a service to a section of the homeless population that’s extremely important and they’re a long-standing operator in the community.”

However, given that the City does provide the shelter with a significant amount of money, they wish to ensure that this funding is used appropriately and effectively, Laidman said.

The City provides funding to the shelter using the same model that other shelters in the city have.

But unlike some other shelters, Dawn House is open during the day, and the City provides about $175,000 — included in the $300,000 — for their day time support services, funding which other shelters may not receive.

Laidman noted that the City doesn’t have control over whether shelters stay open or closed, only over the funding they contribute.

The City will continue to monitor Dawn House’s effectiveness, Laidman said, but they currently believe management is operative.

“The report that was at council [on Tuesday] was strictly informational,” he said.

“It included no recommendations, it only provided council with an update of the status of Dawn House as it relates to the operational review that the City has been undertaking for quite some time.”

The six city-funded shelters who wish to continue to receive funding for 2014 will be required to submit a proposal to city council at the end of this year.

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