Author of the article:

Julie Kotsis

Lacie Krzemien. left, Lisa Valente and Lucie Bellerive participate in a protest on Thursday, March 11, 2021 in front of Windsor City Hall speaking out against the treatment of homeless people in the community. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star Demonstrators outside city hall Thursday called into question the city’s handling of emergency shelter during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak that temporarily shut down the Downtown Mission while demanding more be done to support and communicate with the homeless in Windsor.

Seven women gathered for a rally, led by social activist Lisa Valente, who said she’s frustrated the city hasn’t done enough to ensure people are not sleeping on the street.

“It’s being portrayed (by the city) that everybody’s being taken care of and everybody’s being housed … but it’s just not true,” Valente said. “That’s not happening.

“These are people who have barriers and they don’t have the resources that we have. So somebody needs to be guiding them. There’s no communication.”

Help them, direct them and give them some clear information The demonstration came a day after Ron Dunn, executive director of the Downtown Mission, led 11 people to the city’s temporary shelter at the aquatic centre from a temporary emergency shelter he re-opened Sunday in the former main library building on Ouellette Avenue in defiance of public health orders.

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A man sleeps in a park near City Hall Square on Thursday, March 11, 2021. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star At the aquatic centre, participants were given rapid COVID-19 tests and then directed to facilities set up by the city to accommodate them.

Andrew Teliszewsky, Mayor Drew Dilken’s chief of staff, said city staff conducted 19 rapid tests Wednesday, with five positive results and 14 negative.

“All individuals who presented were placed in appropriate isolation or shelter space,” Teliszewsky wrote in an emailed statement.

“These test results confirm that the actions of the Downtown Mission over the course of the past few days have exposed multiple individuals to the deadly COVID-19 virus,” he said.

“Despite the antics of the Downtown Mission, City of Windsor staff and social service partners remain committed, as we always have, to serving those in need of emergency shelter services or access to the isolation & recovery centre.”

The Downtown Mission voluntarily shut down its temporary emergency shelter, which had been described as “rogue” by city officials, on Thursday afternoon.

Criticism was heaped on the city’s efforts by several participants during the rally.

Lacie Krzemien. left, Cheryl Landry and Lisa Valente participate in a protest on Thursday, March 11, 2021 in front of Windsor City Hall speaking out against the treatment of homeless people in the community. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star In response to the five positive test results, Valente disagreed that it was Dunn’s fault.

“That’s on the city. Where were those five people supposed to go,” Valente said. “Help them, direct them and give them some clear information.

“Today, I just want to make sure that this isn’t going to happen again,” she said. “So the city wants to step up and the city wants to do something. Then the city needs to be involved. The city needs to talk to the people who have been out there every single day — the outreach workers, the volunteers, the Angels for the Homeless.”

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Lacie Krzemien, a community outreach worker, directed some of her criticism directly at Dilkens.

“(Ron Dunn) has been the one working on the front lines helping people from the very beginning,” Krzemien said. “And the mayor goes and has to say that (Dunn) doesn’t know what he’s doing. The mayor doesn’t know what he’s doing. It’s clear.

“I respect these people. They are good people who have come on hard times,” she said. “Not all homeless people are addicted to drugs and the ones that are deserve shelter and compassion.

“They are human beings. Enough is enough. I cannot stand to watch my friends sleep in the cold.”

More On This Topic City to use aquatic centre as interim shelter amid Downtown Mission outbreak Mission shutting down ‘rogue’ shelter Teliszewsky confirmed that “adequate space remains available for individuals seeking emergency shelter services,” and pointed to the current shelter bed capacity of 51 beds at the Salvation Army, 12 at the Welcome Centre for Women and 76 beds at the aquatic centre.

“Council met today in-camera and via teleconference to receive an update from city administration about the rogue shelter operations and the pressures that have come about as a result of those unsafe operations,” Teliszewsky said.

“Mr. Dunn and his companions have manufactured a crisis — there has been and will continue to be space for all those who require emergency shelter services. Any claims to the contrary are just plain lies.”

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