The president and CEO of the local YMCA says it’s seeking to replace a 100-year-old downtown Hamilton, Ont. building insisting it has reached the end of its ‘life cycle.’
As part of a five-year strategic plan, Manny Figueiredo says the James Street North and Jackson Street structure with it’s 174-bed men’s residence, health and fitness branches will have to be replaced due to inadequacies related to services.
“So we’re looking at exploring possibilities of a new downtown Y, and looking at for what will we do with the men’s residence (and) where the health and fitness component will be,” he said.
At the very least agency is seeking a new building that potentially could be housed on the current site should a new location not be identified, according to Figueiredo.
“We need to stay in the downtown core,” he explained. “The ecosystem we provide, health, fitness, educational learning programs, community sports and youth intervention programs are critical.”
The men’s residence is intended to be a transitional place for men moving to Hamilton use it for a week, two or a month before moving to more permanent accommodation.
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However, the city’s current housing crisis, which has some 6,000 people on a waitlist for affordable housing, has become a place where they don’t leave.
The YMCA confirmed they’ve been collaborating more in recent times with partners like Good Shepherd and Mission Services in seeking a program that could revert from its current shelter status to a transitional housing entity.
Executives with the two men’s shelters say they are struggling to find spaces for men, particularly in the midst of the current cold snap across the city, that has filled some 250 spaces in the system capacity.
“We are seeing an uptick,” said associate executive director Shawn MacKeigan. “Like everybody else, we’re hoping what we have in place is going to be able to be of assistance to the individuals that need it the most.”
City housing director Michelle Baird says overall the city has been hovering around 99 per cent occupancy rate with its roughly combined 400 beds and family rooms with one percent or less in availability during any given period.
Figueiredo says with over 200 people on the YMCA’s waiting list, “best practice” for its future building would have to move away from congregate settings if shelter needs across the city don’t decline.
“So we’re exploring what other options there are and also having conversations with partners in terms of what’s our role in this space,” he said.
The agency’s timeline for the replacement of the James Street site is within 5 to 7 years.
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