Municipalities in Simcoe County may be getting cash to help cover the costs of warming centres this winter, though details for the funding are still being worked out.
As part of Tuesday’s (June 28) committee of the whole and council meetings, county councillors received a staff report and survey results concerning lending financial support to warming centres in the winter of 2022/23 in major Simcoe County centres such as Barrie, Orillia and Collingwood.
“In recognition of the ongoing pandemic and the transitional year from the motel model of shelter, in May, County of Simcoe council approved the allocation of $100,000...to assist communities in Simcoe County to respond to warming centre needs on a one-time basis during winter 2022-23,” notes the staff report.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, warming centres originated from community-based collaborations operated and funded outside the system of homelessness prevention services and supports administered by the County of Simcoe.
In Collingwood, pre-pandemic, the Collingwood Public Library acted as the main warming centre option during daytime hours. However, throughout pandemic lockdowns, there were many instances during the winter when the library was closed to the public.
To establish where the need was for warming centres in Simcoe County, a survey was completed and included as part of this week’s staff report.
To inform the survey, 52 responses were collected from warming centre operators/staff, shelter providers, community partners, municipal staff and other stakeholders.
According to the survey results, the largest percentage of individuals who accessed warming centres were in Barrie (46 per cent), followed by Orillia and area (15 per cent) and South Simcoe (15 per cent). South Georgian Bay accounted for 12 per cent of responses, while North Simcoe and county-wide providers accounted for 12 per cent each.
The majority of participants (52 per cent) indicated libraries as a pre-pandemic location of warming centres, followed by bus stations (46 per cent), churches (37 per cent) and municipal buildings (such as recreational centres, arenas, transit facilities, etc.).
The strong majority of participants (90 per cent or 46 participants) indicated post-pandemic warming centres should operate separately from the broader system of funded homelessness services and supports.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Orillia Coun. Pat Hehn said she was “delighted” to see there would be funding for this coming season.
“It was really a concern of our (Orillia) committee as we’ve already begun meeting,” said Hehn. “I understand the $100,000 would be divided between Barrie, Orillia, Alliston, Midland and Collingwood.”
“How is the money going to be divided?” she asked.
General Manager of Social and Community Services Greg Bishop said the allocation wouldn’t be the same for each area.
“We recognize there are different needs across each area,” said Bishop. “We’ll be looking at a number of inputs based on past need numbers, because that will inform staffing. The survey did help inform the process for next steps.”
“Future considerations, if they are warranted... would come to council through the budget process,” he said.