July 2021 is when a women’s addiction treatment centre is to open in Barrie

A property on Tiffin Street has been selected

A 12-bed facility for women battling addiction is to open in Barrie, likely in July, according to city councillor Natalie Harris, who has helped to spearhead the project. The residential treatment program, to be operated by Newmarket-based Cornerstone to Recovery, will also have six beds for transitional housing.

Harris said the centre will be located on Tiffin Street, but she did not want to be more specific than that, for now.

She said the program encompasses so many things.

“It’s obviously active treatment for all types of addictions,” Harris said. “But also teaching women how to immerse themselves back into the community, how to find jobs, how to parent, relationships, and so many other things.”

Barrie city council has approved an interest-free loan of $400,000 to Cornerstone to renovate a building. The loan is secured against the building and must be repaid in equal installments beginning in 2021, over 20 years.

Cornerstone has a $2-million fundraising goal.

Harris has always stressed that the facility would not be funded through taxpayer dollars, and has noted that a similar program has operated in Aurora for 18 years under the same model.

She said the facility would be funded through the collection of textiles using collection bins on at least 10 city-owned properties. The locations have not been selected.

“They have specific textile bins that are actually kind of high tech,” Harris explained.

“They’re monitored by a computer that says when the bins are full. They can operate like a GPS if a bin has been stolen, and the collection of the textiles and sales of those pieces goes toward the treatment centre.”

People who have progressed through the program are employed to take care and maintain the bins so they don’t become an eyesore.

Harris said the textile component of the program will divert waste from the landfill and save taxpayers about $180,000 a year.

She said various agencies who work with people battling addiction will be able to make referrals to Cornerstone.

Kicking the can down the road, Harris said the next step will be to include a men’s treatment centre and a community and wellbeing centre.

Harris has battled addiction, so this project is personal.

“I’ve been pretty open about my addiction. When I came into city council, that was definitely one of the things on my agenda, to really do the best that I could to help fight the opioid crisis that we have here in the city,” she explained.

Getting to the point where Harris has been able to confirm a women’s treatment centre in Barrie by the summer has been a “pinch-me” moment for the councillor, who went to treatment herself at Homewood in Guelph. She said there are no words to describe the positive change and the life-saving it gave to her and her family.

“Being able to offer that to more women is just a gift beyond comprehension.”