Following a meeting between Transition House and its principal funder Northumberland County, the emergency shelter for men, women and families located on Chapel Street in Cobourg remains temporarily closed as the County proceeds with a Request for Proposals (RFP).

Article & image by Valerie MacDonald

Northumberland County Warden Mark Lovshin stated in an e-mail interview that discussions between the two parties at the recent meeting “ centred on the current status of the shelter system in Northumberland, as well as the evolution of practices in responding to homelessness, generally.”

“Transition House was encouraged to review the County RFP when it was released and assess the alignment of outlined requirements with their operations and resources,” he stated.

In an earlier interview with the Warden after the Cobourg shelter’s closure in early December (following a break-in and assault on some of the staff a significant number of whom quit as a result) he said no one wanted Transition House to “go out of business.”

But he also said that changes needed to take place.

The Warden added at the time that this was “not a criticism of Transition House.”

When contacted for comment after the meeting with the County, Transition House Board Chair Catherine White stated in an e-mail interview that she was surprised to hear some of the comments that the Warden has made about the situation.

“At no time over the past few years have we had any communication from the County regarding dissatisfaction with the role the shelter plays in the tapestry of responses to homelessness, housing insecurity and poverty – and certainly not prior to the withdrawal of funding.”

Both parties have previously told News Now Network that the current contract for Transition House’s ongoing shelter services expired at the end of December. Shortly after that date, the County said it would issue an RFP in February.)

It is shocking that, if there were concerns, they have been shared by Northumberland County’s Community and Social Services in the public arena before any discussion with the agency involved,” White continued.

“These are the community requirements that would ensure those in the shelter can have ‘more success when they leave’,” White stated (quoting Warden Lovshin’s words about the status of some of the clients after leaving Transition House).

“Transition House is in no way responsible for the lack of appropriate housing options for our poorest and most vulnerable citizens, nor the sparse community support services available to assist these people to maintain their housing.”

“The vacancy rate for housing locally is .03%,” White stated.

“Low-income housing and housing support are the responsibility of the County. To imply that Transition House has somehow failed to prevent homelessness is incorrect and looks like scapegoating.”

Transition House has always been “open to new and innovative ideas, programs and partnerships” and “worked enthusiastically with the new approaches to homelessness triggered by the 20,000 Homes campaign,” she also stated.

Asked if Transition House will respond to the RFP, White stated: We look forward to seeing the RFP.”