When the Lighthouse Soup Kitchen and Shelter in Orillia uprooted its emergency shelter and residents from their cramped Peter Street location to hotels because of COVID-19, it was March 2020. Nearly 18-months later, they are back, in a new home.
The $14.5 million Building Hope campaign funded by government and the community that helped build a new and larger Lighthouse at 75 Queen Street now has people living in it.
The 20 supportive housing units were the first to be occupied, then on Aug. 30 the emergency shelter became operational.
Lighthouse executive director Linda Goodall says because of COVID-19, they can operate 37 beds, though there is room for 60. There will be shared bedroom space, but the top bunks cannot be used. Goodall says they are following guidelines from the province and health unit.
A 9-bed youth wing has yet to open because of COVID.
Goodall says there is a men and women’s wing on the emergency side, though youth can access those beds, too.
There is a congregate setting in the cafeteria where residents gather to eat.
The supportive housing units are available to somebody that has been homeless for more than six months or is in and out of housing or shelter on a regular basis.
“You have to apply for the program,” says Goodall. “They can stay there for up to four years, and it is staffed 24-7 with the programming that goes along with that. It’s to help people get life skills they need in order to get housing permanently in the community.”
The Lighthouse continues to operate its bag outreach program for people in need of food.
Goodall says the new building has a full commercial kitchen. There are now offices with more privacy for workers to assist clients with housing supports, mental health programs and other services.
Partnerships the Lighthouse has built in the community continue. Empower Simcoe provides housing resources, there is a clinic room where doctors and nurse practitioners can see clients on-site, and eventually Youth Haven will have an outreach worker to assist in the youth wing.
At the end of the day, Goodall says all shelter workers are focused on housing because they want people to get the help they need.
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