After a couple of false starts, an overnight warming centre will launch in Barrie on Friday, Jan. 21, according to Suzanna McCarthy, executive director of the John Howard Society of Simcoe and Muskoka (JHSSM).
The centre will be hosted by Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County (CFSSC) at 20 Anne St., and will be open from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven days a week.
This announcement comes less than a week after the JHSSM confirmed a daytime warming centre will operate at Trinity Anglican Church downtown from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week, also beginning on Friday.
“I’m delighted CFSSC has stepped up to serve this vulnerable population,” said McCarthy, whose agency received a $20,000 grant from the City of Barrie to deliver the shelter program. “I so
appreciate the other local businesses who offered their locations, even though their spaces
weren’t able to satisfy the fire and health inspectors for this purpose.”
“Through these new community partnerships, we will be able to offer those experiencing homelessness a consistent and ’round-the-clock escape from the frigid temperatures they have already been dealing with this winter.”
In a media release on Wednesday, McCarthy said “staff and volunteers will take over CFSCC’s program each night to provide access, enforce public health pandemic protocols and otherwise support the dozen or so individuals who are expected to attend the warming centre each night.”
As of last week’s count, there were 68 people in total sleeping on the city streets, according to McCarthy.
“Our program room is warm and empty each night and it just makes sense to put it to such
good use,” said CFSSC Executive Director Michelle Bergin, whose accredited and registered charity
provides fully inclusive counselling and mental wellness programs across Simcoe Muskoka. “We’ve
partnered with Suzanna and the John Howard Society on other initiatives before and are confident
those who seek shelter on our premises will be well served.”
Local realtor Peggy Hill is hoping for a permanent placement for the warming centre so
those who need it will have access much earlier in the season year over year. In addition to her
own $10,000 donation to JHSSM, she has set up an online fundraiser and challenged other realtors
to do the same toward a goal of $100,000. Donations can be made to the program through Hill’s
fundraiser at https://bit.ly/3fD6O3X.
The Busby Centre offers daytime and overnight warming at its 88 Mulcaster St. location, as well as respite beds in a partnership with the Elizabeth Fry Society at a north end Barrie hotel.
The City of Barrie has opened the downtown transit terminal as a warming centre this winter, but it was not meant to be a permanent solution, and this only happens when the temperature or wind chill is going to be at least minus 20.
City council has asked staff on Monday to look into whether other municipal buildings other than the transit terminal could be used in the future as a warming centre.