County of Simcoe releases winter plan to help homeless

Opening of a temporary homeless shelter in Barrie pushed back to December

The weather gods aren’t going to let this balmy weather last forever.

With tents popping up in different locations throughout Barrie, people who are vulnerable to winter’s wrath will have options both here in the city and else in the County of Simcoe to keep warm.

In a news release, the county stated that warming centres will be available in Barrie, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Collingwood, and Orillia this winter on nights when Environment Canada predicts overnight temperatures to fall below -15 degrees Celsius for at least two hours. The County says it is working with shelters based in Alliston and Midland to ensure “winter warming is available.”

The timeline to open a temporary 50-bed homeless shelter at the former Barrie OPP detachment property on Rose Street at Highway 400 has been pushed back to December. The county had hoped to have the modular shelter open for occupancy on November 15.

“We are working closely with the City of Barrie on all necessary permits and approvals,” Greg Bishop, the County of Simcoe’s General Manager of Social and Community Services told Barrie 360 in an email. “We want residents to know there is still room available in the shelters in Barrie and in other communities in Simcoe County.  If those spaces get filled up, the motel voucher program will be used until the new temporary shelter is open.”

The county also supports vital community street outreach initiatives and programs to reach people in need and encourage them to come indoors or to connect them with shelter-system services.

In collaboration with community partners and homeless shelter providers, overnight warming services, daytime drop-in services and overnight respite beds at many locations throughout Simcoe County will provide additional choices for individuals opting not to access shelter programs. Drop-in programs and overnight respite warming programs do not require individuals to enter the shelter program.

“We’re pleased to announce that an entire year of work and planning by our staff and partners has paid off, and warming centre locations will be open across the region this winter,” said Warden George Cornell. “Prior to 2022, the county did not specifically fund warming centre locations within our communities as it was not in the county’s mandate. However, we are happy to assist with this important service in 2022 and for 2023 through one-time pandemic-specific funding and expanding our supports.”

About the Simcoe County shelter system

While the shelter system is publicly funded through the county, local shelters are not operated by the public sector. Private and not-for-profit shelters in Simcoe County include:

  • Elizabeth Fry Society, serving women and gender-diverse individuals — Barrie 
  • La Maison Rosewood Shelter, serving women and children — Midland
  • Salvation Army Bayside Mission, serving men — Barrie
  • S.H.I.F.T. — Alliston (winter sheltering)
  • The Busby Centre — Barrie
  • The Busby Centre — Collingwood (temporary winter sheltering)
  • The Guesthouse — Midland
  • The Lighthouse — Orillia
  • Youth Haven, serving youth ages 16 to 24 years old — Barrie

For more information on the county’s homelessness prevention strategy, visit simcoe.ca/findshelter.

Banner image: Design of modular shelter to be established at the former Barrie OPP detachment on Rose Street (IMAGE SUPPLIED)

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