By J.D. Booth
While the temporary shelter now known as the Good Shepherd Lodge opened its doors in September, last Friday's grand opening was just that—a grand day.
With spectacular weather and a crowd of people, many of whom had been involved in creating the facility, Brian Knott, chair of the Inn of the Good Shepherd board (as well as Sarnia's city solicitor/clerk), welcomed those attending, even while taking note of a remaining $180,000 needed to completely pay for the facility.
"It's a bittersweet thing that we need a facility of this nature," said Knott, quoting an Irish proverb: "It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”
Located next to the Salvation Army Citadel on Confederation Street between Indian Road and Murphy Road, the community facility provides temporary housing that the Inn previously provided through hotel accommodation, typically on London Line.
"It really wasn't the best way to provide for their needs," said Myles Vanni, executive director of the Inn. "The difference here is that the people we serve are able to stay connected to the community. We're also able to provide a pathway to success, including the support they need to help them develop independent life skills, to reestablish themselves in the community."
Lambton County Warden Jim Burns said a facility of this type could be likened to a fire truck. "You have to have it but you hope you never have to use it. This is one of those facilities."
In his remarks, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said: "There's something very contradictory about this. Everyone involved should be proud of their efforts in making this facility possible, but I don't want us to stop our efforts in pushing down the misery index. When it's all said and done, it's not about charity, it's justice. It's that simple."
Bradley said he remembered when homelessness and the need for a shelter was first discussed, many were in denial that the issue even existed.
"The simple reason for that was the generosity of the churches, of individuals. But there was no focus on the need. The community has now rallied and this is the result."
He also challenged the community to raise the remaining $180,000 before Christmas. "Truly, we can do this going into the Christmas season. That way the Inn, entering 2011, can do so not worrying about that additional obligation."