Funding for the Downtown Warming Center provided by Barrie Councilors

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“I hope the county is watching this and will act quickly because this is a ridiculous situation we find ourselves in,” Coun said. Gary Harvey

Help fund an indoor warming center in downtown Barrie for the homeless received backing from city council on Monday evening, as it approved a motion to share the cost of $ 40,000 for the next three months with the County of Simcoe.

“Our homeless are looking for a warm place to go,” Coun said. Natalie Harris, who has been calling for a warm-up center for weeks. “When we have identified gaps in our services… we need to change the way we provide shelter, shelter and warmth. “

Some councilors have wondered aloud why this need exists, given the county-funded housing system, which receives the city’s social housing money.

“With the amount of money spent on these services…” said Coun. Robert Thompson. “Winter was coming this year to 100%. It’s not a new season.

“Now it’s almost mid-January and it’s minus 10 outside,” Coun said. Gary Harvey. “So it’s also ridiculous that we are where we are today. I hope the county is watching this and will act quickly, because this is a pretty ridiculous situation we find ourselves in. ”

The motion, which was approved unanimously, is that a one-time grant of $ 20,000 funded from the reinvestment reserve be provided to the John Howard Society of Simcoe Muskoka, through the County of Simcoe, to fund additional nighttime warming capacity in the City of Barrie and that the county be asked to match the funding.

Homelessness services and prevention are the responsibility of the County of Barrie. The county is responsible for social housing services in Barrie, including funding. The city does not directly fund the Busby Center, The Salvation Army, the Elizabeth Fry Society or Youth Haven.

Simcoe County Council has yet to consider the funding request, but Barrie’s $ 20,000 would be used for a warming center regardless of the county’s decision.

City council will consider final approval of the motion at its January 17 meeting.

“It’s a modest amount of money under extreme circumstances,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman. “The demand is now and for me fairly obvious. “

No specific site has been identified for the downtown warming center, although Harris mentioned potential choices on Dunlop Street West and at a confidential location.

Earlier Monday evening, the city announced that the Barrie transit terminal at 24 Maple Avenue will be available as a warm-up center for the duration of the extreme cold (minus-30 degrees Celsius) warning announced by Environment Canada, subject to capacity restrictions. Safety protocols will be followed to ensure physical distancing, screening will take place and face coverings should be worn.

Com. Keenan Aylwin said the city has followed Environment Canada’s minus-30C cold limit, but it should be higher.

Councilors approved his motion that the city open a warming facility only when an extreme cold alert is issued by Environment Canada or the temperature or wind chill is expected to drop to minus -20 C for at least two hours.

“Minus-30 is really, really cold and there’s a need when it’s a little warmer than that, minus 20 degrees,” Aylwin said. “Health Canada says minus -27 degrees Celsius is the temperature at which you really start to worry about wind burns and frostbite. So I think if we follow the science on this then a negative value of 20 makes sense. “

A makeshift warming center had been erected at the Sam Cancilla Park kiosk in Barrie for 10 days, but it was dismantled by organizers on Sunday after Barrie Police received a complaint.

Orillia has a warm-up center that operates out of the Orillia Community Church on Colborne Street East on nights when the temperature is minus -15 ° C or above.

The Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness count of November 2020 showed 563 people, 82% of whom were single, were homeless and that 49 percent, or 276 people, were in Barrie.

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