In Thunder Bay, a community is coming together to save a vital public service.
The SOS program is a mobile service run by Shelter House Thunder Bay and staffed by members of OPSEU Local 738. The program comes to the aid of people who are homeless and struggling with addictions by providing them with food, shelter, transportation, support, and the means to reduce harm. Workers liaise with the Thunder Bay Police Service, Emergency Services, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, and Balmoral Centre Withdrawal Management. They connect individuals to partner agencies and step in to help – when no one else can. The program has played a vital role in reducing emergency contact with first responders.
Unfortunately, the SOS program is still without stable funding. The program was suspended on April 1 but is slated to reopen in November, leaving six OPSEU members without work until then. The agency is looking to raise $200,000 to begin providing services again by November.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation organized a barbecue June 16 to raise funds for the Street Outreach Service (SOS) of Shelter House Thunder Bay and committed to matching any donation up to $10,000. The barbecue drew a large and enthusiastic turnout, and loud cheers went up when it was announced that they had passed their fundraising target. OPSEU Region 7 presented a cheque for $1,000, while Locals 737 (Thunder Bay Jail), 677 (Northern School of Medicine), 710 (Thunder Bay Courts), 701 (Ministry of Government and Consumer Affairs Thunder Bay), 741 (LCBO Thunder Bay and Kakabeka Falls), and 740 (Community Living Thunder Bay) also donated cash, bringing OPSEU's total donations to $2,100. Nishnawbe Aski Nation will match this amount, bringing the total raised to $4,200.
Local 738, with the support of the Region 7's Executive Board Members, is working with the employer on a campaign to secure stable funding for the SOS program. Stay tuned for updates.