As the region’s In/Out of the Crisis (IOTC) program draws to an end at Camp Samac in Oshawa, clients are sharing their stories about how their life has changed since staying at the facility.
Camp Samac was used as a temporary housing initiative that housed unsheltered individuals and provided 24/7 wrap-around services during the coronavirus pandemic. Scouts Canada gave the region a permit to operate at the site since the beginning of May, with the Christian Faith Outreach Centre in Ajax and the First Light Foundation of Hope in Oshawa working as the lead agencies.
Over the summer, IOTC saw 109 individuals, according to the region. The facility had a maximum capacity of 40 people at a time in accordance with physical-distancing measures. Staff say there were no COVID-19 cases for the duration of the program.
Josh Cheeseman lived at Camp Samac for nearly three months. Just in time for his 40th birthday Thursday, Cheeseman is finally able to move into a permanent place he can call home.
“Finding out that after today I have a home to go to,” Cheeseman said, “I never would have thought that. Never at all.
“It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Before he received support from the IOTC, Cheeseman was battling a drug addiction. He says he continues to receive support to aid in his recovery. Even so, he says his body is functioning with much higher energy compared to the beginning of the program.
“I never realized that I could do this or have this in my body,” he said.
“Hopefully I can go on for another 40 years.”
Bruce Millson also stayed at Camp Samac. He says he was displaced following a house fire in Oshawa. Millson says the program offered him a sense of belonging and a chance to get up on his feet.
“We have similar characteristics and just the kind of people we are, we had that kind of click, which was nice,” Millson said.
“The staff as well, they fit in really neat.”
Both individuals say workers treated them as family.
“Pastor Roy as well as Pam, they’ve been family to me,” Cheeseman said.
“They’re like a mother and a father to me.”
Erin Valant with the region’s affordable housing and homelessness initiatives says IOTC overall was successful in helping to stabilize people.
“We’re really seeing the outcomes and the great work that can be done when we start to build those supports around people,” she said.
Oshawa’s Mission United supporting hundreds of individuals each week during coronavirus pandemic
Valant says the region is hoping to use the same community partners and a similar model from the program for its winter response to homelessness. She adds that the team is currently working on those details, with more information expected to be released Nov. 1.
“We’re anticipating as everyone else is. We want to be ready if there is a second wave that comes,” she said.
“We also want to be ready for when the cold weather comes.”
Durham has received $3.5 million in funding for winter shelter response. On Thursday, the region announced At Home Durham, a new modular housing development with 50 supportive housing units and community services that will be coming to Beaverton in north Durham.
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