Barrie Mayor says emergency shelter funding for David Busby Centre doesn’t reflect the demand

The mayor says he doesn't want to take funds from another organization

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman wants a bigger serving of the financial pie for the David Busby Centre.

County Council gave tentative approval today to $5.39 million in 2020/21 funding to over 30 service providers. The money will be used to deliver a wide array of homelessness prevention supports, including Case Management, Emergency Shelters, Supportive Housing, Rent Supplements and other initiatives.

Lehman raised concern over the $140,000 David Busby is to receive for emergency shelter. He says Busby provides service to people who can’t be served elsewhere, either in the County or by other organizations, and the volume is just that much greater.

“Busby typically sees its overnight shelter full. That means 60 to 65 people every night. The reality is that it’s the largest shelter and the funding did not reflect that.”

The mayor, who represents Barrie at County Council, made it clear he doesn’t want to take money from other organizations. He wants the pie to be made bigger.

The County undertook a funding review with service providers last spring.

Jan Janssen, Children and Commuity Services Director for the County of Simcoe, says they had to prioritize housing first and shelter supports as the base for these funding recommendations. That meant making reductions in other programs and services. Ideally, she says, they don’t want to do that.

With tentative approval of the funding recommendations, council also supported Lehman’s request that staff report back on county funding or provincial funding, or both, that might be allocated toward additional funding for emergency shelters across the county.

“This wasn’t just about emergency funding for Busby, but that is where my concern lay,” said Lehman. “Maybe this is a situation where there is additional funding we can put against the pressure everywhere in the County.”

Janssen says the situation they see presenting in homeless populations is more complex and different needs are intersecting. She points to mental health, substance abuse and lack of access to primary care.

“Issues surrounding homelessness are complex. It’s going to take more thoughtful solutions.”

The funding allocations still require approval from full council at its March meeting.