In response to a huge uptick in the use of homeless shelters in Barrie, a local organization is showing some HEART. The Housing Engagement and Response Team program, or HEART is a creation of the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness, and is a walking outreach program. Members of the HEART will be in downtown Barrie, engaging with individuals and families experiencing homelessness from May until November.
The HEART program builds on an existing service the David Busby Street Centre has been offering as a pilot project for the last two years, and is the collaborative effort of several social service agencies: The Gilbert Centre, Youth Haven, Regional Housing First Team, Barrie Housing Resource Centre, and the Barrie Community Health Centre all played a part. “The Busby Centre has long been a trusted leader in assisting those experiencing homelessness in Barrie,” notes SCATEH Barrie Chapter Chair Jennifer van Gennip. “This collaboration is exciting as it will mean a broader coordination of services to offer to someone in their time of need. Many people are experiencing homelessness out of a lack of choice in housing, financial stability, health, access to treatment, etc. This program aims to support people where they are at, while empowering them to regain choices in their lives.”
For this past winter season, there were an average 70 people using homeless shelters in Barrie a night, compared to 40 a night in years previous. This increase was in addition to those already staying in local shelters, which were also exceeding capacity through the winter.
Meanwhile, as of Tuesday afternoon, the Barrie Out of the Cold program will no longer exist. It is transitioning operations to the David Busby Street centre, and will move away from operating nightly at area churches from November to April, instead staying in the Busby’s permanent facility on Mulcaster Street. It’s said this will improve service delivery for those who need it.