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One hundred and sixty thousand Canadian families are in need of affordable housing. When I wrote a column for the Londoner I was invited by Leaurie Noordermeer, Branch Director, to visit Rotholme Women’s and Family Shelter.

The first sign you encounter: “Slow. Watch for children playing”. The windows are barred and there is one way glass at the entrance & intercom for access - everyone signs in and out. Two staff members are on duty 24/7. 60% of the women report recent incidences of abuse.

The home is supposed to house forty one residents. On the day I visited their was a total of 62. 20 single parent families in residence with 37 children to be fed, housed and kept out of harms way. Twenty beds are allotted for single women in need.

The families arrive with only the clothes on their backs. The shelter supplies bed bags filled with linens.

The numbers of Londoners in need is staggering: last year stats show 401 single women, 30% of whom were 16-21 years of age. 202 families with 25 single parent fathers. One third of the residents are new Canadians some from off Somalia and Columbia.

The shelter has a $42.95 per diem allowance minus $3.00 for the residents for their personal needs. Rotholme receives funding for six weeks. Compare. Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre daily per diem cost of incarceration is $175.

The myth of homelessness is that- they are same people, same old story. The reality is that 75% of the families are first time residents.

Gail, the cook, is responsible for 60 nutritious meals a day along with snacks. She always cooks for an additional ten. Thirty school lunches keeps her busy.

Melrose Bakery, Ginger Bread House, Angelo’s donate to the pantry. Former Councillor Joe Avola shows up every morning with his “buns”- Tim Horton’s.

Heather, a single parent, has been at the shelter for one week She had to leave her home with her fine little boy - found refuge in a motel. Not able to afford the rent with little savings and no family support. She and her son now feel safe.

I came upon a single parent father checking apartments for rent in the classified. He is far from home, the Middle East, caring for his two little children who have lived at the shelter for the past eight weeks.

Why has London needed a women’s emergency shelter for the past twenty years?

Leaurie kindly agreed to educate you and I regarding the reality of homelessness. “There is not enough safe affordable homes for those who fall through the cracks of poverty. Too many Londoners are forced to live pay check to pay check”.

“Government should stop clawing back Child Benefits from one’s welfare (Ontario Works) checks. If one is fortunate enough to find part time employment the moneys are deducted from your welfare check.”

Ontario Works legislation doesn’t work. Pretend that you are a single parent with one child with an allotment of $527.00 per month for food and rent.

Leaurie spoke of the need to change. All Londoners deserve a chance to live with dignity in safe affordable homes.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com