The Grind Pembroke has embarked on an initiative to provide transitional (short-term) housing to homeless individuals who are connected to a health or social service agency and who are actively working on a plan to stabilize their lives.

This initiative was made possible through the generous donation of a two-storey house from the estate of a deceased community member. Once renovations are completed, the house is expected to accommodate at least three individuals for a week or month at a time. The house will have a full-time house supervisor and meals will be provided. Residents’ room and board will be subsidized by partnering health and social agencies. Operational costs will be covered by community donations and available grants.

The Grind Pembroke, in partnership with Mental Health Services of Renfrew County / Pembroke Regional Hospital (MHSRC/PRH), has completed renovation work on a house it inherited in late 2017 to provide an assisted independent living option to homeless men who are connected to a health or social service agency and who are actively working on a plan to stabilize their lives. The goal is for these individuals, with daily support including life skills training, to transition into conventional housing where they can continue their journey toward becoming functioning and contributing members of our community.

This initiative was made possible through the generous donation of a two-storey house from the estate of a deceased community member. The house is expected to eventually accommodate at least three individuals for short periods of time. For the time being, occupants will be limited to two during the COVID-19 crisis. The residents will, under supervision, be responsible for daily housekeeping chores, including planning, securing, preparing and cooking their meals. Each resident will be responsible for paying rent based on their income means (e.g. CPP, social assistance or disability allowance), plus pay a monthly rate for food. Mental Health Services’ Crisis Team members will supervise the facility on a day-to-day basis, while The Grind, as landlord, will be responsible for the physical plant, e.g. maintenance, repair etc.

Renovation assessments began in the Summer of 2018, with work commencing in the Fall of the same year. Initial work was done by a team of volunteers who had specific skill sets in electrical, HVAC, carpentry and plumbing.

In the early stages of renovating the house, community spirit and interest in the project blossomed. In May of 2018, students of Algonquin College’s Office Administration-Executive Program, under the leadership of professor Connie Poupore, adopted Transition House as the focus of their “Project Hope for the Homeless” initiative to raise funds towards the cost of renovations. With several months of planning, as part of their fundraising and event planning course segment, the college students and their supportive faculty raised, with the help of generous community members and businesses, nearly $12,000. In addition, students of the college’s Construction & Renovation Program, under the direction of their professor, Adam Johns, also joined in supporting the project. In March of 2019, after several months academic training in a classroom setting, 30 students and their professor spent two weeks at the house installing new walls, insulation and drywall on both levels.

These contributions were augmented by a generous donation of $10,000 from the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of London, Ontario, and subsequently, as part of an important on-going partnership between The Grind Pembroke and MHSRC/PRH, e The Grind received a generous grant of $100,000 to accelerate the work and provide funds for household furnishings. In February of 2020, community spirit again was in play when 736 hundred generous donors (including 203 walkers) joined The Grind Pembroke for it’s annual fundraiser in support of at-risk community members – Coldest Night of the Year 2020. Funds raised to date total $38,723, half of which are targeted for Transition House’s operational phase with the balance being directed to the creation of a commercial Community Kitchen.

The Pembroke Fire Department performed its final inspection of the facility and The Grind received its occupancy permit on 2020 May 7. Transition House received its first resident on May 14th. The Grind Pembroke would like to thank all of its generous volunteers and donors for helping to make this project come to life to help the homeless overcome their challenges. Plans for an official opening and public open house have been put on the back burner until we can see our way past our immediate pandemic crisis.

A “BIG THANK YOU” goes out to The Grind’s Garth Marquardt, Jerry Novack and Wes Thomson for their hard work and leadership on this project, to Mireille Delorme and Cheryl Summers from Mental Health Services of Renfrew County and Pembroke Regional Hospital’s Leadership Team, including vice-president of Patient Services – Seniors and Community Care, Sabine Mersmann, for believing in and supporting our cause on behalf of those in the community who are most at-risk, to all our generous community donors who contributed labour and funds and who are too numerous to mention individually, and to the great service community of contractors, tradespersons and suppliers for your support and expertise. A true labour of love!