Mission Services of Hamilton (MSH) has been assisting Hamiltonians experiencing poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, and addictions and mental health issues for 66 years. Our Men’s emergency shelter at James N and Barton has been reinvented many times, responding to emerging needs and has quietly existed as a life line to many. When we opened in 1956, we primarily served alcoholic men who were “destitute”. Over the years, we saw the introduction of crack cocaine and then heroin to our streets. During the 80’s when the mental health act changed, the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital released residents from care, many of them finding their way to the streets of Hamilton and into our shelters seeking support. In response, MSH began providing residential addictions programming. We were one of the first agencies in Hamilton to proactively endorse harm reduction practices, working in the early years with doctors to provide methadone treatment and develop harm reduction responses. We were one of the first agencies in the city to help individuals experiencing overdoses through the introduction of Naloxone. From the beginning of the pandemic, Mission Services’ various programs ensured that those who were experiencing hunger or who were unsheltered found supports through emergency food, emergency hotels, addiction services, and day respite for unsheltered individuals.

We do not create poverty or homelessness in the neighbourhood where we reside, but rather we respond to it with tangible supports and a focused presence. Our primary goal is to assist individuals to find and maintain permanent housing. Since April 2020, Mission Services’ Housing UP! program has helped 280 unhoused individuals find and sustain permanent housing. We also provide those housed individuals ongoing support for up to 24 months. This is the focus of our staff’s work within shelter. It is meaningful work. It is important work. It is work that creates desired outcomes. We are housing focused. This means that we focus on helping individuals navigate and address the personal and systemic barriers that prevent them from being housed, removing those barriers, and facilitating successful housing placements. This is done through continuous engagement with individuals to identify barriers, building relationships with landlords, and assisting individuals with the process. The long-term support helps move people forward and creates the hope people need to find ongoing housing success. We believe housing is a right for all, and no one should have to live outdoors. A shelter is a temporary place to reside while seeking housing.

Our current location cannot meet the growing need within our community. We are moving the 58 emergency beds to 400 King St. East. The addition of 50 short-stay beds to that location will become part of the housing first program, Housing Up! A move to a short stay bed means that the individual is being supported while in the process of being placed in housing. Individuals in the short-stay beds are motivated to be successfully housed. They are moving forward with a vision of having their own home. A program with proven success of housing homeless individuals is an asset in a community where homelessness is rampant.

MSH is dedicated to maintaining open and honest communication with the neighbourhood and working with neighbours to address and solve issues that may arise. While many residents of this community have been very welcoming and supportive of our move, we are aware that others have concerns. Unfortunately, there has been some misinformation about this project that has been publicized, adding – unnecessarily – to the concerns of residents in the ward.

We would like to correct this misinformation with the following points:
• The building’s existing zoning supports the presence of a shelter
• All legal processes were followed correctly and all permits to perform the work were legally applied for and obtained through the required process
• Once we had a legally signed contract with the vendor, we informed the community and extended an invitation to a public engagement session on September 21, 2022 to discuss the move, and address community concerns regarding the relocation to Ward 3
• MSH is not purchasing 299 Main Street East and has no connection to that property
• 400 King Street East will not be a safe consumption site
• Residents of the shelter receive 3 full meals/day and will have no need to access St. Patrick’s De Mazenod Door meal program
• Daytime services at our Men’s Emergency Shelter, and all other programs, continue to operate – MSH has NOT cancelled any programming

Our history is evidence of our commitment to improving the lives of those within our community, of our continued willingness to be good neighbours and to bring positive change to the neighbourhood through our presence and hope to those whom we serve.

Carol Cowan-Morneau
Executive Director, Mission Services of Hamilton