John Howard Society confirms daytime warming centre will open Jan. 21 in Barrie

The agency says an overnight location has also been secured but details won't be announced until next week

After a lengthy search, the John Howard Society of Simcoe Muskoka (JHSSM) will operate a daytime warming centre at Trinity Anglican Church in downtown Barrie.

Executive Director Suzanna McCarthy tells Barrie 360 the centre will operate Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with COVID-19 protocols in place.

A location for an overnight warming centre has also been found. McCarthy says she cannot disclose details until next week as there is paperwork that needs to be completed.

She was unable to give a firm figure as to how many people can be accommodated at the church, but McCarthy figured between 15 and 20 individuals.

Last Monday, city councillors tentatively approved funding half the $40,000 cost to staff a warming centre. The motion also included a request that the County of Simcoe covers the other $20,000. The county has yet to deal with the request. Also contained in the motion, if approved at the Jan. 17 city council meeting, would see the downtown transit terminal on Maple Avenue open as a warming centre when the wind chill or outdoor temperature reaches minus 20 or colder. Currently, the city follows Environment Canada, which issues an extreme cold warning when the temperature or wind chill is going to be at least minus 30 for two hours or more.

McCarthy says both the daytime and overnight warming centres are critical, especially with the temperatures of late.

“It’s critical that we have a place that people can come in and be warm, access resources, get referrals and all of those things under one roof.”

Mayor Jeff Lehman told Barrie 360 this week that there have always been places where people can go to get out of the cold.

The Busby Centre has a warming centre at 88 Mulcaster Street, and there is the downtown bus terminal.

The Busby site offers day and night availability, depending on staffing, and also has an outreach team on the streets. There are also respite beds available at a Bayfield Street hotel, which are provided in collaboration between the Busby Centre and the Elizabeth Fry Society.

Prior to Saturday’s announcement by the JHSSM, Busby Centre executive director Sarah Peddle told Barrie 360 that another warming centre would complement what is already being done.

The County of Simcoe funds shelter services in Barrie including the Busby Centre, Youth Haven, the Elizabeth Fry Society and the Salvation Army.

“There is space available for those who are seeking shelter or to come in from the cold within the City of Barrie and in communities across Simcoe County,” the county said in a statement on Friday afternoon. “Shelter beds have increased by close to 70 per cent to 327 beds across the region as a direct response to the needs of vulnerable residents during the pandemic.”

feature image: Leah denBok