The clock is ticking for the Elizabeth Fry Society Simcoe Muskoka and The Busby Centre as both shelters for the homeless must begin transitioning from the emergency motel model at the Travelodge in Barrie.
In a news release on Tuesday evening, the agencies said in the coming days/weeks they will be under a period of planning and assessment, in collaboration with the County of Simcoe, City of Barrie, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and community service organizations, to determine safe transition to home locations and possible undetermined secondary congregate locations that will accommodate overflow emergency shelter beds.
“As the province continues to lift pandemic-related restrictions, COVID funding allocations, specific to sustaining the current hotel shelter model, have been decreased and directives from Public Health, as it relates to operations of congregate settings, are being revised,” according to the statement. “The cost to occupy the Travelodge in its entirety is not financially sustainable.”
The agencies said that although COVID-19 pandemic-related funding allowed expansion of temporary emergency shelter beds in Barrie, the existing crisis remaining post-pandemic is the lack of affordable housing options and unattainable rental rates for people experiencing poverty and homelessness in the community.
“Without immediate available affordable housing or enough alternate emergency shelter locations, people experiencing homelessness will be forced to live in unsheltered locations forgoing safety, food security and regular basic needs and transitional support to obtain housing.”
The Elizabeth Fry Society and The Busby Centre are providing emergency shelter to approximately 200 individuals each night, and served a combined 1,100 unique individuals last year, more than double what the organizations served pre-pandemic.
The Busby Centre is also providing overnight shelter to 10 individuals each night at their 88 Mulcaster Street location, as well as families experiencing homelessness at another location. There is also outreach support to 25 individuals per day in the community who are living unsheltered, as well as offering transfers back to a person’s community of origin or other supports to avoid adding more individuals to “an already over capacity system of care.”
The maximum available bed space is 17 at Elizabeth Fry and 25 at The Busby Centre with current infection, prevention and control measures in place. The agencies said this leaves over 150 individuals (not including new intakes or those already experiencing unsheltered homelessness) without safe access to shelter if an alternate solution is not presented by June 30th.
The agencies have no further information regarding finalized transition dates, new location(s) or potential capacity if an alternate location is confirmed.
“We would like to thank our dedicated staff teams and partners including County of Simcoe, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, Barrie Community Health Centre, RVH Infection Prevention and Control Team, Empower Simcoe, Canadian Mental Health Association, Canadian Drug Mart and Hep Cure who have supported the operations of the temporary pandemic hotel model since spring 2020,” the statement concluded.
Banner image: The Busby Centre, Barrie