Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

February 09, 2015 15:52 ET

Security for vulnerable homeless and safety of shelter staff are at risk in Kawartha Lakes

CITY OF KAWARTHA LAKES, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Feb. 9, 2015) - A dangerous and outmoded staffing situation at homeless shelter, A Place Called Home, is putting both residents and workers in jeopardy and the practice has become a major focus of concern for employees at the Lindsay shelter.

The 19-bed homeless shelter provides accommodation and support to men, women, youth, and families with children. However, unlike similar facilities in the region, A Place Called Home in Lindsay is staffed by a single person from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m., Monday to Friday, and 24 hours a day on weekends, even though the shelter regularly runs at an average 90 per cent capacity.

Research into the procedures of shelters and hostels in other communities has shown best practice provides for two client-support staff on duty at all times or, at the very least, during peak times.

Employee representatives will address the potential hazards of the single-staffing practice at the City of Kawartha Lakes' council meeting on Tuesday, February 10.

"Single staffing creates a dangerous and unacceptable situation for residents and workers at A Place Called Home," said Janet Rodin, chair of Unit 1 of Local 855 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). "When providing crisis support to 19 vulnerable people in a residential environment, two trained staff members are necessary to ensure the safety of everyone on site."

Rodin pointed out that the client support workers at A Place Called Home are a highly dedicated group of employees: most are women who have worked at the shelter for over five years; the starting wage is just under $14 an hour, with no pension and limited benefits; and most workers are considered "relief staff" with no guarantee of hours. They deal with vulnerable people under very difficult circumstances, caring for their needs, providing guidance and support, along with running every facet of shelter operations, including cooking, cleaning and basic maintenance.

"These employees and our clients deserve the support and safety of double-staffing arrangements while they carry out this very important work," Rodin concluded.

The shelter's plans to put safer, more secure staffing procedures in place have been rejected by City of Kawartha Lakes' Health and Social Services, which has recommended a 1 per cent increase, or approximately $3,500, to the shelter's funding. The other major funding sources for A Place Called Home are United Way for the City of Kawartha Lakes and direct donations.

Council will decide on funding for the shelter at Tuesday's meeting.

"Council's response must address the serious concerns over residents' and workers' safety," said Rodin. "They must find a way to bring staffing up to safe and adequate levels, just as there are in other homeless shelters in the region.

"To do otherwise is to set the stage for a potentially disastrous situation, one that could have devastating consequences for residents and those who serve them."

Contact Information

  • Janet Rodin
    Unit Chair, CUPE Local 855-01
    705-879-7718

    Alison Davidson
    CUPE National Representative
    705-760-5113

    Mary Unan
    CUPE Communications
    647-390-9839