The Kingston Youth Shelter, formerly located at 113 Lower Union Street, has moved to the former Fairfield Manor West site at 805 Ridley Drive — albeit only temporarily.
The City of Kingston acquired the former Fairfield Manor West site after Council voted to do so in October 2020. Prior to that, the site, and its East counterpart across the city, were leased by the City of Kingston for use as interim housing/shelter solutions: The east end location became the headquarters for Home Base Housing, and the west end location on Ridley Drive was converted into a COVID-19 isolation shelter, providing a place for the unhoused to stay while awaiting COVID-19 test results, or while self-isolation after positive results. All of this activity took place after both locations were listed for sale following closures for safety reasons in 2018.
Once the COVID-19 self-isolation shelter ceased operation, the City indicated the site would be used for “supportive transitional housing” following the required request for proposal (RFP) process. That RFP went out earlier in 2020, however, the relocation of Kingston Youth Shelter to the site was not the outcome of that process.
The shelter, which is owned and operated by the City of Kingston, moved after another prospective interim housing project showed interest in the Lower Union Street location, according to Mitchell Grange, Manager of Housing and Homelessness for the City of Kingston. Kingston Youth Shelter had previously relocated to the Lower Union property at the same time as the City leased the former Fairfield Retirement Home properties.
“We have since purchased 113 Lower Union and purchased 805 Ridley Drive for the long term goal and commitment to fill those spaces with supportive transitional housing,” Grange said.
“We’ve since been working with an agency,” he continued, noting that something regarding the proposed idea will be going before Kingston City Council in the coming weeks. Grange would not elaborate on the use for the Lower Union address that will be proposed. However, “in order to accommodate that and get work started on that facility, we have transitioned the Youth Shelter out to 805 Ridley Drive to continue their operations there,” he said.
Tuesday, May 18, 2021 was the first day Kingston Youth Shelter was operational at the Ridley Drive location. And while those with the Shelter were unable to provide an interview as they were busy with moving, Grange indicated that he’s heard from Shelter representatives that clients are already settling in.
“We’ve already heard this morning that all the youth are very thrilled with the rooms. So that’s all great news,” he said, though he was unable to elaborate on how Kingston Youth Shelter prepared their clients for such a move, or whether transit passes are being provided to the clients who are normally in the city’s downtown core.
The move to the west end comes with its benefits to clients, Grange explained. While the Lower Union site allows for a 17 bed capacity for Kingston Youth Shelter, the Ridley Drive location’s west wing also allows for a 17 bed capacity – only those are all individual rooms with dedicated washrooms, unlike the shared space model on Union Street.
As this transition is occurring, Grange indicated that that the City wants “to make sure and clear that we have appropriate community consultation with the neighborhood.” To that end, an 805 Ridley Drive Neighbourhood Meeting will take place virtually on Zoom on Tuesday, May 25, 2021 – exactly one week after the Shelter moved into the new space.
“The neighborhood has been informed of that already,” Grange said, noting that the meeting is not intended to be a public meeting, but rather a meeting for those who live in the area around 805 Ridley Drive.
Despite that, the plan is not to see Kingston Youth Shelter remain at the Ridley Drive location, Grange explained.
“[It’s] not long term,” he said, noting that the City has not “gone through the formal review of an RFP process” for the Ridley Drive address.
“They will stay there, though, for the foreseeable future, until the pandemic is kind of… under control, at which point we’ll work with them on a plan,” Grange said. “If that means staying in the space or exiting back to 234 Brock Street (where the shelter space was originally), I think we want to make sure that whatever we do with 805 Ridley Drive is completely transparent and open through a formal RFP process. And we’re still kind of in the [pandemic] response mode.” Kingstonist will update this article when further information can be obtained through Kingston Youth Shelter employees.