The Simcoe County shelter system provides housing-focused, low-barrier emergency shelter accommodations to individuals experiencing a housing crisis or those fleeing unsafe situations who need to find a place to stay quickly. Shelters use one of the Simcoe County diversion discussion protocols prior to each admission to determine if an alternate safe housing option is required. Shelter staff assess and assist participants with the development and implementation of housing plans throughout the participants' stay. In accordance with Simcoe County Shelter Standards, facilities include but are not limited to: common showers, common bathrooms, and bedroom facilities. In addition, shelters must be in compliance with all local building codes, bylaws, safety ordinances, and requirements of various public regulators.
Since onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the County of Simcoe's Social and Community Services team, along with agency partners, have embraced innovative opportunities to provide enhanced support to those experiencing homelessness across the region.
Implementation of the Emergency Homeless Motel Shelter Model
In mid-March 2020, the County authorized funding to support Homeless Shelter Service Providers in relocating and housing their respective occupants within motels located across the region. Of the seven Homeless Shelters, six adopted the Motel Model, while one was able to meet COVID related health protocols within its existing home shelter location.
Homeless Shelter Service Providers
|David Busby Street Centre||Barrie|
|David Busby Street Centre||Collingwood and Area|
|Elizabeth Fry Society||Barrie|
|The Guesthouse||Midland/North Simcoe|
|The Lighthouse||Orillia and Area|
With additional thanks to:
- Community Connections Collingwood who initially implemented Collingwood Out of the Cold until transferring operations to David Busby in the fall of 2020.
- Alliston Out of the Cold who implemented and provided shelter services until May, 2021.
In addition to the cost of the actual motel rooms, funding supports the following:
- 24/7 onsite staffing and security
- Deep cleaning
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Mental health and addiction supports
- Temporary pandemic pay
- Wage enhancement
- Increased street outreach
- Training and workshops for shelter staff
- Installation of Automatic Electronic Defibrillators (AED) units at all locations
The use of the Emergency Motel Shelter Model has been broadly cited by Public Health as best practice in ensuring both physical distancing and isolation of individuals as required.
March 1, 2020 to March 14, 2021
- 1,559 unique individuals were served through the homeless shelter system
- Within the shelter system, an average of 204 individuals have been served each day, with levels increasing to approximately 230, each day, during the winter months
- More than 650 shelters residents have been assisted in obtaining permanent housing
Persons experiencing homelessness and wishing to access a shelter program may call one of the shelter providers or contact 211 for support and assistance.
Collaboration is key
At the onset of the pandemic, the County and community partners adopted a collaborative approach intended to fill the gaps left when many social and/or health services were forced to suspend in-person support to vulnerable populations. Partners and services continue to include:
- County of Simcoe Paramedic Services provide weekly health and wellness checks which lead to overall improved health of individuals and reduced hospital visits
- Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit deliver weekly updates at County-led shelter check-in meetings and provides Infection Prevention Resources and Control Assessments
- Canadian Mental Health Association continues to assist with onsite mental health supports, staffing, harm reduction and addiction counsellors
- Homelessness Shelter providers work closely with housing resource service agencies including Empower Simcoe, CONTACT, and BRAWC in developing housing plans intended to move residents towards permanent housing.
Community Services COVID Funding: 2020-2021
As the Municipal Service Manager for the region, the County leveraged enhanced funding from both the Federal and Provincial Governments to assist local service providers in addressing the needs of those experiencing homelessness, while also providing additional poverty reduction supports to agencies assisting those living in low-income households.
- Federal Reaching Home Program - $3.46 million
- Provincial Government's Social Services Relief Funding - $7.7 million.
- Provincial Mental Health and Addiction Funding - $124,596
Funding was primarily used to support the Motel Shelter Model with additional investments in:
- Enhanced Street Out-Reach to support those living outdoors, and to encourage movement of individuals to shelter locations with related services
- Regional food banks to help low income households meet basic needs
- Housing Retention Fund to support individuals requiring assistance to retain housing and/or acquire accommodations (i.e. mortgage/rental arrears; utility arrears. etc.)
- Supportive and Transitional Housing programs to assist with costs of deep cleaning, PPE and additional safety supplies
Should you have any questions regarding homelessness supports and services in Simcoe County, please contact Lora D'Ambrosio at firstname.lastname@example.org