Barrie councilor pushes city, county to secure funding for warming center

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A Barrie city councilor tries to speed up the process of setting up a warming center in the city as it heads into the depths of winter.

Ward 6 Councilor Natalie Harris brought a motion, along with Mayor Jeff Lehman, to Barrie Council on Monday to seek funding for a warming center that would serve the city over the next three months.

Harris said if council agrees to pay half of the $ 28,000, it will ask Simcoe County to cover the rest.

This money would be used to pay the salary of a full-time employee in a warming center.

“This would allow for seven days, every night, to have someone trained from the John Howard Society to staff a warming center – every night until March,” Harris said.

“They already have 40 to 50 volunteers lined up, training them and getting them ready to go. We are working very hard and are always looking for a location. We are ready to go, but we are looking for funds and space.

On Friday, the John Howard Society of Simcoe Muskoka, which is leading the charge of bringing a warming station to Barrie, announced on Twitter that it had received an anonymous donation of $ 10,000 to help cover costs.

“It will definitely help the John Howard Society and other organizations that work together, like the Gilbert Center, to achieve this,” said Harris. “Funding is so essential right now. “

“It’s very difficult when the Simcoe County funds coming into Barrie are limited.

Right now, a group from Barrie with no place to spend the night have taken matters into their own hands and built a makeshift warm-up center on Dunlop Street downtown.

The center is made up of tarpaulins and a propane tank heating the inside of a gazebo.

“It’s not just ridiculous, it’s inhuman and it’s unacceptable,” Andy Stokes, a member of the city’s homeless community, said Thursday.

Harris said if temperatures drop to minus 30 degrees Celsius, the city will open its bus terminal overnight to serve as a warming center. Although, grateful for it, she said it was not enough.

“What we’re really trying to do is make sure our homeless people have a place to go every night,” Harris said.

As for the daytime warming spaces, the Barrie Public Library is open at 50% of its capacity.

The Busby Center is another option, open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and hopes to reopen its overnight shelter soon.

According to the city, more than 120 people live on the streets of Barrie.

– With files from CTV’s Rob Cooper

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