Homeowners near Morningstar’s warming centre voice their concerns at community meeting

Representatives from the L&A OPP, Town of Greater Napanee, Morningstar Mission, and Prince Edward Lennox and Addington Social Services were among those on hand to hear complaints from homeowners regarding the location of the warming centre within Morningstar Mission. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Adam Prudhomme

Neighbours within a two block radius of Morningstar Mission were invited to a town hall style meeting to offer their thoughts and concerns regarding living next to the warming centre.

One thing was made clear at the outset of the meeting: nothing was going to be solved that night. The purpose was simply to gather feedback from the homeowners with the intent of working towards solutions to those concerns. Those issues include trespassing, drug activity, littering, threatening actions and generally disruptive behaviour at all hours of the day from some of the visitors to the warming centre, which provides shelter for those living rough on a cold night.

Morningstar Mission executive director Kevin Alkenbrack called the May 6 meeting that included representatives from the Lennox and Addington OPP, the Town of Greater Napanee, Addictions and Mental Health Services and Prince Edward Lennox and Addington Social Services.

“I just felt after three years of doing the warming centre here and listening to some of the concerns of the community it was time, probably high time, to do this,” Alkenbrack said of the meeting.

A decision made at the height of the Omicron COVID crisis was the catalyst of sorts that eventually led to the meeting. It was during that time that the warming centre was re-located to 58 Water St. W. Among the questions brought up during the moderated talk was why the centre was able to be established in that residential area with no input from neighbouring property owners.   

“The reason the warming centre is here is because there is a gap,” said Alkenbrack. “To not have a warming centre would create other problems.”

Alkenbrack noted the first year of the warming centre they saw about five people a night. Last winter they were averaging 15 a night and that was only serving those who had no where else to go.

“This is a system that we wish we didn’t need,” said Scott Richardson, PELASS housing manager. “We wish we didn’t have so many homeless people that we have to have systems like this. The reality is it’s here, it’s growing, it’s not just Napanee, but in all areas.”

Residents shared that they feel OPP won’t do anything to remove ‘lingering’ people who hang outside the warming centre during the day when it is closed.

“If people don’t feel safe, then it’s my job to make you feel safe,” said Sgt. Al O’Byrne of the L&A OPP. “Your perception of you feeling safe in your community is my job….Ultimately at the end of the day you can call us. I would never encourage you to engage with someone you don’t feel safe.”

On the issue of drug activity, O’Byrne said that’s not an issue centralized to Water Street.

Greater Napanee mayor Terry Richardson says there is no quick fix, but longterm the plan is to build more homes.

“In our municipality we are doing everything possible to attract people to build houses,” said the mayor. “Supply and demand. More houses will make houses more affordable…what you start to see is the domino effect. If we can continue to build houses it will open up houses for other folk.”

PELASS has also spelled out its longterm plan to address homelessness in the region on its website-though a lot of it is dependent on funding.

Alkenbrack says the Mission’s doors are always open and he is willing to talk to the community to hear their concerns. He plans to hold more town hall style meetings in the future, taking notes from each one and meeting with community partners to address them.

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