The emergency motel model (EMM) to house Barrie’s homeless during the pandemic has been given a two-week extension until July 31.
The Busby Centre and the Elizabeth Fry Society confirmed the extension in a news release on Thursday afternoon.
The EEM began in March 2020 as shelters reduced capacity or even closed to meet public health requirements. The provincial and federal governments have provided funding, and while the program was to end June 30, two extensions have now been granted.
Last month, the City of Barrie ($400,000) and the County of Simcoe ($800,000) announced additional funds to support the program, but all sides agree that the cost to operate emergency shelter from hotels is not financially sustainable.
Busby and Elizabeth Fry have both transitioned regular shelter operations home locations, and say in collaboration with the County of Simcoe, City of Barrie, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and community service organizations, they are “working toward a responsible solution to an alternate site(s) to accomodate the increased number of people requiring emergency shelter space.”
Several sites are under review and consideration to meet the current need, according to the shelter providers, and that will comply with building, zoning and fire code requirements.
Busby and Elizabeth Fry are providing emergency shelter to approximately 150 individuals each night in home and hotel locations, and served a combined 1,100 unique individuals last year, more than double what the organizations served pre-pandemic. The Busby DETOUR Outreach Team is also supporting over 56 individuals per week in the community who are living unsheltered and when possible are diverting individuals coming from other communities with warm transfers to their origin community or other supports to avoid adding more individuals to an already over capacity system of care.
“The existing crisis remaining post-pandemic is the lack of attainable, safe, subsidized and supported housing options for people experiencing poverty and homelessness in our community,” the news release stated. “Without immediate available housing options or enough alternate emergency shelter beds, people experiencing homelesssness will continue to be forced to live in unsheltered locations forgoing safety and food security, will have limited access to regular basic needs and transitional suport to obtain housing and will continue to be subject to by-law and police enforcement, fines and evictions.”
Maximum available bed capacity at existing shelter locations is 62 combined at both agencies (25 at Elizabeth Fry Society and 37 at Busby Centre) with eased IPAC (Infection Prevention and Control) measures in place, leaving over 85 individuals (not inclusive of new inflow into homelessness or those already surviving in unsheltered locations) without safe access to shelter if an alternate solution is not presented in the few days before July 31.
The County of Simcoe is the funding provider for shelter services in Barrie.
Youth Haven also made use of the EMM, but the agency’s transitional program returned to its current location in April 2021, and the emergency shelter resumed operations from its Wellington Street site last October.
The Salvation Army Bayside Mission did not participate in the program and was able to meet distancing and isolation requirements from their downtown location.
Banner image: The Busby Centre (file photo)