Ken experienced homelessness for the first time in his life after the age of 60. He had never stayed at an emergency shelter, had never needed housing support. All it took was one bad experience with a landlord and he had no where to live.
“The landlord evicted me. Kept all my belongings. Everything I’d collected from my lifetime, gone.”
Ken stayed in Mission Services emergency hotel shelter (when it was open during the COVID-19 pandemic) but was then offered a space in the Transitional Housing Program where he lived for over a year.
Each clients’ housing journey is unique. Some people only stay a very brief stint in emergency housing, others come and go more often. And some are ready for more independence but aren’t quite ready to integrate back into the community.
Transitional housing or short term stay (STS), bridges the gap between homeless and housed, and that’s exactly what Ken needed help with.
“Transitional housing is an opportunity for clients to get their heads above water, rebuild their rent history and start over,” explained Barb, Ken’s STS worker.
Transitional housing offers clients a private room with their own bed and wardrobe. It is an independent space where they can lock their door and come and go as they please, unlike emergency shelter clients who sleep in dormitory style rooms and have curfews. The curfew is important to ensure beds don’t sit empty over night but it doesn’t mimic the independence of living on your own.
Transitional housing allows individuals to remove themselves from a shelter environment into a space that more closely reflects how they will be living in the community.
Ken was happy to move into his own space.
“I don’t think I would have liked living in the dorms very long. You have to deal with everybody, you’re tired because people are making noise through the night. When I moved into transitional housing I was surprised at what they did for me,” said Ken.
In addition to offering basic amenities like three meals a day and laundry and shower facilities, short term stay clients have access to individualized support. For Ken this included helping sort out some legal issues he had, as well as working on his diet and coordinating doctor’s appointments and pharmacy services.
When Ken says he was surprised what the STS staff did for him, he doesn’t just mean the roof over his head or the meals he ate, he means the personal element.
“I told Barb I had a bike but the tires were no good, the tubes were flat. Next thing I know they got me a new tire pump, chain, lock, tubes, tires. I was shocked,” said Ken.
Helping get Ken’s bike in working order was part of his meaningful daily activity.
“What are those little things that the client could do that might be low cost or no cost that brings them joy,” said Barb. “For some men that daily activity includes connecting them to peer support groups or providing art supplies, but it’s unique to each client.”
Men that stay in the transitional housing program pay a program fee, which helps them rebuild a rental history. Without that history it’s hard to find housing in the community. After a year with the STS program, and working with Mission Services’ Housing UP! staff, Ken was able to find a one-bedroom apartment that was right for him.
“Life doesn’t always give you a good hand but it’s what you make of it. I didn’t expect the shelter to do what they did for me, it was a good experience,” explained Ken.
There are currently 17 transitional housing rooms available at Mission Services. From April 2022 to April 2023, 52 clients stayed in the short term stay program.
With the Men’s Shelter moving to 400 King St E this year, Mission Services will be able to offer more short term stays than ever, with 50 beds available at the new shelter.
“STS enables clients to get out there and be more successful. It just gives them that little extra support as needed and if they have anything going on in their life we’re just a door knock away,” shared Barb.