This question comes up often and while there may not be one singular definition, in simple terms the Respite program offers a comfortable, safe space for individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
More broadly, the 24-Hour Respite Program supports people from the community to address a variety of their needs from food and clothing, access to showers and storage, social engagement and one on one help with connecting to health and harm reduction services, as well as housing supports.
Respite services are designed to support those individuals with complex needs by attempting to reduce as many barriers to accessing the program as possible. Those living with mental illness or addictions or both are treated with compassion and dignity by staff who are trained to see those who are struggling as people first and not the sometimes challenging behaviours that can someone can display when they have not had their needs met.
Our space is flexible and our guests can for the most part access services when and how it best suits their needs. People can have their pets with them throughout the Centre and can access a variety of support options for their pets including free pet food, beds, blankets as well as the PAWS Program in which they can apply to access funds to pay for veterinary services. Guests can define their own relationships and couples are welcome and can be accommodated together throughout our space.
Because the Centre is open 24 hours a day, guests can come and go throughout the day and night and exercise the same type of autonomy of choice as should be available to anyone. Food, access to internet and other recreational activities are also available around the clock.
For the first time in 2018 24-Hour Respite programming has become more than a seasonal response to cold weather and has become a year round service. We have continued to see a strong demand for these services all throughout the year and we have had the opportunity to create strong relationships with our guests and have assisted many to move on to other housing options.
Beginning this winter we will be operating a second 24-Hour Respite site in downtown Toronto as a response to the continued need for homelessness services. St Felix Centre is proud to carry on the legacy of the Felician Sisters by serving those in our community who are currently struggling. We recognize that this type of work is not easy and we know that there will likely be new challenges coming which we have not yet experienced but we will continue to build on the foundation laid by the Felician Sisters and integrate the Core Values as we serve where we are needed.