Dunn of Downtown Mission Announces Resignation

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Ron Dunn, CEO of Downtown Mission, confirmed Monday that he will be leaving his job.


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His sometimes controversial nine-year tenure at the helm of the mission will officially end on Friday, November 5. His sudden departure is related to a new job he has accepted in Halifax as executive director of that city’s hospice.

“I’m going to move on,” Dunn told the Windsor Star on Monday, the same day he said he briefed staff. “Basically, I think it is time for me and to open the door to other people.

“There is a meeting between the mission and the city at the end of this month. My hope is that new leadership will move things forward.

“Leaving this city is something I never thought I would do. But I’m looking forward to (the new job). It is bittersweet as leaving the mission was a difficult decision to make.

“I feel like we accomplished a lot and I am proud of the work that I have done.”


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Dunn said the mission board will soon appoint an interim CEO and create a search committee to find a new full-time replacement.

Downtown Mission CEO Ron Dunn sits on a bench where he planned to stay for 24 hours to raise money for the homeless shelter, in this Nov.5, 2020 file photo.
Downtown Mission CEO Ron Dunn sits on a bench where he planned to stay for 24 hours to raise money for the homeless shelter, in this Nov.5, 2020 file photo. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

The Downtown Mission, which provides food and overnight beds to the homeless, has been in operation in Windsor since 1972. It has been at its current location, the old United Church on Victoria Avenue, since 2001. The mission has only had three CEOs in his 49 years.

Dunn was a member of the board when he assumed the role of interim CEO in 2012. The position was formally assigned to him in 2015.

Under the previous leadership, the mission operated with an annual budget of no more than $ 1 million, funds raised almost entirely through donations.

But once Dunn took office, previously operating weekly newspapers in LaSalle and Tecumseh, the mission’s budget increased to $ 1.7 million in 2012 before peaking at $ 10.7 million in 2017, according to financial statements. from the Canada Revenue Agency.


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Staffing levels at the mission in previous decades ranged from six to eight full-time employees and 10 to 20 part-time workers with overall compensation of no more than $ 450,000 in any given year, records showed.

However, under Dunn, the number of staff for 2018 essentially tripled levels from before, reaching 25 full-time employees and 50 part-time employees, including professional fundraisers, who were paid a total of $ 2.5 million in 2018.

Dunn always defended his actions, noting that the goal was to increase programming for the growing number of homeless people, including the purchase of a second commercial building in the 800 block of Ouellette Avenue. New facilities and services included a gym, deli, youth center, hair salon, and dental program.


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“I have no regrets,” Dunn told the Star in an interview Monday. “Now we serve three meals a day when they used to serve one. I have always tried to act in the best interest of the clients we serve.

“I feel like we have come a long way. I think I put the mission in a good place in terms of future planning. “

But questions about the direction the mission was taking began to emerge after the mission, for the first time and in two years in a row, reported budget deficits – roughly $ 600,000 in 2018 and $ 755,000 in 2019.

Downtown Mission CEO Ron Dunn, right, talks to a mission visitor about the changes to hours of operation in this Feb.5, 2020 file photo.
Downtown Mission CEO Ron Dunn, right, talks to a mission visitor about the changes to hours of operation in this Feb.5, 2020 file photo. Photo by Nick Brancaccio /Windsor Star

Controversy erupted when Dunn’s ambitious $ 10 million plan to buy and rebuild the city’s central library branch on Ouellette Avenue at a new headquarters sparked a public backlash and the plan collapsed.


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In February 2020, the mission switched the library to a private developer, upsetting the city council and Mayor Drew Dilkens.

Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin, whose neighborhood includes the mission’s location, went so far as to suggest that people consider not donating to the mission given its questionable direction and expense.

While the conflict has subsided somewhat, difficulties between Dunn and the city continued behind the scenes as the mission worked to move to a new location after selling its Victoria Avenue building as part of the failed library plan.

The mission must fully vacate the property by July 2022. Administrative staff have already relocated to the mission’s commercial building in Ouellette.

A vacant property in the 1500 block of McDougall Avenue was initially chosen by Dunn and the mission as his future home, but the focus now is to build a new home on a vacant property he also owns on the corner of Ouellette and Elliott Street, Dunn said. . .


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“Drawings for approval of the site plan will be sent to the city later this week,” he said. “We will see how it develops.”

The city council announced plans in July to create its own city-run homeless center.

City and city administrators will look to renovate an existing vacant structure or build anew, if a new building is determined to be the best option, in about a year.

The new center will become a comprehensive center where people who are homeless, struggling with addictions or struggling with mental health can come during the day for support, with up to 60 beds available for the night.

Dilkens has expressed frustration that those who access existing community night shelters, primarily the mission, too often end up as long-term occupants and get lost in the system.


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The city’s creation of a center with community partners and services under one roof should ensure that those in need are not forgotten, he said.

Dilkens declined to comment Monday on Dunn’s departure, but his chief of staff, Andrew Teliszewsky, said the focus remains on the city’s own plans to “deliver on our housing and homeless master plan.”

“Last week we formally announced the purchase of the hotel in Tuscarora and we continue to evaluate the housing center that has been endorsed by the council,” he told the Star.

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