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County introduces new shelter model to combat homelessness during COVID-19

Shelter system is adjusting to the needs for physical distancing, isolation
2020-04-14 CountyVirtual JO-001
County council attended their first ever virtual council and committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday. Jessica Owen/BarrieToday

The County of Simcoe held its first virtual council meeting on April 14, using ZOOM – and after a few technical glitches, dealt with issues that included the steps being taken by the county to address the COVID-19 emergency.

County councillors delegated authority to senior staff to disburse a total of $4 million in emergency funding, as the need arises - $2.44 million from the Provincial Social Services Relief Fund, and over $1.6 million in new federal funding, through the Reaching Home program.

Some expenditures have already been made, said General Manager of Social and Community Services Greg Bishop.

The money has been used to adjust the shelter system to introduce new social distancing and self-isolation where required, in part through providing shelter beds in motels.

So far, said Bishop, the county has seen “165 individuals housed through the motel system alone.”

County Councillor James Leduc, Deputy Mayor of BWG, asked if there would be any county funds available should a municipality want to open up a town-owned property as a shelter.

Leduc warned that the “Blue Door Shelter (located in York Region, just south of Bradford) is at full capacity, our motels are at full capacity,” and cited a need for additional shelter space.

Bishop explained that housing supports in Bradford West Gwillimbury are provided through CONTACT Community Services – and that at this time, CONTACT advises that there is still capacity in local Bradford motels.

Bishop was also asked where residents could access information on county support programs and emergency relief. He suggested the information is available on the Simcoe County website, or through a call to Ontario 211 Community and Social Services Help Line.

“211 would be our go-to for any of our residents,” he said; also accessed online.  

Miriam King

About the Author: Miriam King

Miriam King is a journalist and photographer with Bradford Today, covering news and events in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.
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