The period 2016-2017 represented a time of considerable change in the history of Ryandale. What began some twenty-five years earlier as a shelter for the homeless has taken a new shape. Two aspects are reported: the closure of Ryandale Shelter for the Homeless, and the continuation of Ryandale Transition House.
Closure of Ryandale Shelter for the Homeless
Change began with the implementation of the City of Kingston’s 10-Year Housing & Homelessness Plan. This led to the conversion of Ryandale’s Elm Street property from a shelter that operated 24×7 to an overflow shelter, with only evening and overnight availability, effective July 1, 2015. The new funding arrangements with the City provided significant uncertainty to the operation. There was initially a contract to June 30, 2016, then notification of a funding extension to December 31, 2016. In June 2016 there was further clarification that the City’s approval of the funding did not actually mean an extension, so the last date would have been June 30, 2016. Finally, there was an extension to September 30, 2016, with an additional extension to December 31, 2016, with promise of a contract to June 30, 2017. When the City gave final notice that it’s funding would in fact cease at the end of June 2017, the Board decided to close the Shelter. It is important to note that, over the last months of operation, utilization of the shelter was low.
The decision to close the shelter was not done without significant thought and exploration. The Visioning committee, a subcommittee of the Strategic Planning Committee, was taxed with presenting the Board with one or more options for the future of Ryandale. In October 2015, a meeting was held at Kingston Public Library, with numerous Kingston agencies in attendance. A number of ideas were pursued following that meeting. Later a proposal was presented to The City of Kingston that would allow Ryandale to operate as an Interim Supportive Housing Unit. While the City agreed the proposal had some merit they indicated there would not be operational funding to support such a plan. The desire of the Board was to pursue a direction that was in harmony with the direction of the 10-year Housing & Homelessness Plan, while at the same time remaining true to the founding principles of Ryandale.
Consideration was given to converting the Elm St. property for other uses, to giving the property to another agency, and to selling the property. In the end, based partially on financial considerations and primarily our desire to continue a viable Transition House, the property was sold and the joint mortgage paid.
We regret not only that this opportunity for the homeless of Kingston was no longer available, but also that a team of faithful and committed staff was permanently laid off. This included two people with 25 years experience with Ryandale. It was the decision of the Board that severances be appropriate yet generous. The staff were unionized, so there was some bureaucracy in dealing with the union over layoffs, severances, successor rights, etc. Everything was handled thoughtfully and amicably for which we are thankful.
Ryandale Transition House
Ryandale Transition House has continued to operate on Victoria Street, with accommodation for seven clients. One part-time staff member oversees the operation of this property, with particular attention to the “transition” aspects. It is the express purpose of the Board that we operate much more than a rooming house. The intention continues to be that clients will receive life skills to enable them to move on to more permanent housing and employment, with stability in their lives.
The Transition House maintained positive occupancy rates throughout the year. In the past, shelter clients would typically fill vacancies. Without this same connection for prospective T-House clients, we successfully reached out to other agencies such as Harbour Light, National Parole Services, AMHS, and In From the Cold for referrals.
There was a great deal of work required by the Board in closing the Shelter. The decision was taken to “catch our breath” before considering any further changes. As we move into another business year, the future of Ryandale still remains our primary focus. To that end, the Visioning Committee is focusing on the possibility of expanding operations within a transition housing paradigm. Conversations with other agencies in Kingston indicate that, while Housing First may be meeting some needs, there is still a need for transition housing.
Over the past year, two members resigned from the Board, and our two long-time advisors were added to the Board. They bring to the Board a keen sense of history and considerable knowledge of housing and homelessness in Kingston.
We acknowledge the support of the City of Kingston, the United Way, our generous donors and our faithful volunteers. We also express appreciation for our partners in Housing Assistance / Emergency Shelter programs. And we express heartfelt gratitude to our staff who maintained an operation that we could be proud of and that maintained an excellent reputation in the Kingston community.
Chair of the Board of Directors