River City will reopen homeless shelter

November 6 is date for debut of 'River City Sanctuary'—10 years after first shelter was opened

george esser river city sanctuary

Victims of homelessness in Sarnia will have somewhere new to turn on November 6, with the opening of River City Sanctuary, a “reboot” of River City Vineyard’s mission that began in 2006 but was sidelined by court action.

With River City winning that battle, Pastor George Esser says River City Vineyard has been working for several months on a new approach to what he says is an ongoing problem in the community.

“There’s lots of people that are homeless,” Esser said. “We’re being inundated with people who need a place to stay and they’re looking for a place like ours.”

The shelter in its new format will have 12 beds.

Esser says the new name is designed to remove some of the stigma associated with the “shelter” moniker.

“With us, a sanctuary is just a place to come in, feel safe.”

Esser adds that the historical role of a church in providing refuge. There was also a desire to avoid confusion with an existing hotel, the Harbourfront Inn (the previous name of the River City facility had elements of that name).

He added that a good deal of the work associated with opening the doors to the Sanctuary has been around security, particularly fire alarms.

River City Vineyard is also seeking donations to help fund furniture and some 21 tamper-resistant lockers.

The organization expects to staff the Sanctuary with two full-time paid workers and eight volunteers. Those paid positions will also be funded by donations.

Esser has yet to present his plans to neighbours, although that has been promised.

The church’s website is at rcv.org

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