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County supports motion for new homeless shelter in South Simcoe

Move comes amid increasing homelessness rates
2020-03-11 County JO-001
County of Simcoe council chambers. | Jessica Owen/BarrieToday file photo

At a recent Simcoe County council meeting, a motion was passed to provide help to Supporting Hope for Individuals and Families Today (SHIFT) to address an increase in homelessness in the area.

With council moving to provide support for SHIFT, it will be considered as part of a homelessness service system review in 2022-23 and staff will bring recommendations through the regular report process for annual funding allocations for 2023-24.

Formerly known as Alliston Out of the Cold, SHIFT began in 2017 and achieved charitable registration in June 2020. Based out of Alliston, the organization offers an annual emergency overnight shelter program from November through April.

It’s currently on a month-to-month lease in Alliston after previously operating out of Anchor Point Church. With it no longer being able to operate out of its existing location, funding is required for a new space within the next year to continue the program.

Resolutions were passed by the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, the Town of Innisfil and the Town of New Tecumseth requesting the county provide space or financial assistance to SHIFT to secure new locations in both the east and west areas of South Simcoe to ensure the agency can continue to provide services in these communities.

“Homelessness in Ontario has been worsening over time, has been affecting younger cohorts, and has shifted geographically to smaller but rapidly growing municipalities,” the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury wrote in a letter to the county. “Simcoe County homelessness enumeration (‘Everyone Counts’) was conducted Jan. 23-25, 2022, with 722 individuals experiencing homelessness in Simcoe County (an increase of 159 individuals since 2020), with 57 identified in south Simcoe.”

Data extracted from the Homeless Individuals and Families Information System identified that in 2020, 58 individuals were served by the emergency overnight shelter program, and in 2021, 49 individuals were served.

Data from the Simcoe County homelessness enumeration completed in January 2022 demonstrate an increase in homelessness in Simcoe County since the previous enumeration in November 2020. January 2022 data counted 722 individuals compared to 563 in November 2020, an increase of 159 individuals.

Findings from both enumerations note the greatest number of homeless individuals is in Barrie, followed by North Simcoe and Orillia, ranging from a high of 178 in Barrie in the November 2020 enumeration to 14 in South Simcoe. In January 2022, this ranged from a high of 361 individuals in Barrie to 57 in South Simcoe.

SHIFT is available seven days per week to individuals and couples experiencing homelessness with no housing alternatives. Staff is available to assist participants with housing-related needs as requested.

A community dinner program operates daily from November through April, and this is available to any resident.

Outreach services, focused on preventing homelessness and connecting individuals with services throughout South Simcoe, are offered six days per week. Services can be accessed at the shelter location during daytime hours, where individuals can access food, basic needs, showers, and receive support and information. Mobile services with scheduled stops in communities throughout South Simcoe and surrounding area are also available.

Services, including daytime drop-in, showers, supplies and housing supports, emergency overnight shelter and the community dinner program, are not regularly funded through the County of Simcoe and operate through donations and with the assistance of volunteers.

“SHIFT provides safe, respectful, and welcoming overnight accommodation, meals and support to those experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness and/or food insecurity in all of South Simcoe,” the letter said. “SHIFT recognizes no municipal borders and serves all of South Simcoe with services that are an integral part of a healthy, thriving, supportive community.”