’Burg drop-in centre could close

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A highly utilized outreach centre in Wallaceburg is in danger of shutting down.

R.O.C.K. (Reach Out Chatham-Kent) Missions announced Feb. 1 it will be closing its Wallaceburg drop-in centre March 31 unless new funding becomes available.

This decision stems from unforeseen challenges, R.O.C.K. officials said, including a withdrawal in funding from the United Way of Chatham-Kent and the conclusion of the partnership with the 7 Generations Indigenous Cultural Friendship Centre (7GICFC), where the drop-in centre is located.

Renee Geniole, executive director for R.O.C.K., said they are seeking the help from the community to keep the drop-in centre, which had been open 24/7, operational. It costs about $200,000 to operate the centre at that pace.

The centre serves 20-40 people per day, R.O.C.K. officials said.

The drop-in centre provides food, harm-reduction supplies, hygiene products, community connection, and a safe, warm place to go.

Meanwhile, Maureen Geddes, interim CEO at the United Way of Chatham-Kent (UWOCK), said the umbrella nonprofit organization was also a founding member of the outreach centre when it opened in January of 2022 and did not rule out funding heading its way in the future.

March 31 marks the end of UWOCK’s fiscal year and future funding for support into the charitable sector has not been completed as of yet.

“We encourage R.O.C.K. to submit an application for funding  for the next fiscal year,” she said. “It’s a process. It is a challenging time for the whole charitable sector. There is growing demand and limited funds. We do typically get more applications than we can fund.”

Geniole said R.O.C.K. officials are also looking for community support in Wallaceburg to aid in funding the centre. If the funding is below what R.O.C.K. received this past fiscal year, she said they will look to find ways to keep the centre operating, but likely not in a 24/7 capacity.

“If there are ways we could negotiate and manipulate the programs to keep things going, we’d be open to that,” she said. “Wallaceburg is an awesome community. We were filling a pretty big gap there for daily services.”

Geddes said the selection process for funding organizations and projects is not done by the United Way board, but rather there is a committee that listens to the needs of respective communities and allocates funding based on perceived needs.

Geddes sees the good the centre provides Wallaceburg citizens in need.

“We’ve been quite proud to provide the support and the funding to help bring it (the drop-in centre) there,” she said. “R.O.C.K. in Wallaceburg has been amazing.

R.O.C.K. has been serving Wallaceburg since 2019, providing

street-level outreach services distributing food, harm reduction supplies, and hygiene products to those experiencing homelessness or insecure housing.

The group currently serves 120 individuals each week in Wallaceburg through their outreach program, which will continue to operate once a week.

“We have a lot of great volunteers there. We won’t stop doing outreach there,” she said.

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