Barrie bus terminal opens as emergency warming center as temperatures drop

City of Barrie opens downtown bus terminal as a temporary emergency warming center with temperatures plummeting overnight.

The news comes a day after a makeshift heating center erected by a local group was pulled down following a police complaint.

“Obviously there were a number of concerns there, with the propane tanks and so on,” said Peter Leon of the Barrie Police Department.

Local shelters say their hands are tied by COVID-19 outbreaks, restrictions and understaffing limiting the number of people able to find warm beds and shelter overnight, leaving dozens to fend for themselves in the streets.

The Busby Center can only accommodate a few people during the day, the Salvation Army has not been able to provide new beds and the public library has limited hours and capacity.

City Councilor Natalie Harris plans to ask the city and county for $ 20,000 each to immediately open a warm-up center.

“We need something reliable,” said Harris. “I really hope this can happen soon.”

Harris said a recently renovated house on Dunlop Street by Cornerstone of recovery could offer a short term option. The agency plans to build a rehabilitation center for women.

“They contacted me today and said, ‘If it works, you can use it until we clear the land. “Which will be in mid-February, so at least we’ll have a little bit of a break for a few weeks,” she said.

The city opens the Barrie Transit terminal overnight Monday with COVID-19 capacity restrictions in place.

ORILLIA HEATING CENTER

In Orillia, a new warming center at the community church fills up quickly when temperatures drop, but it can only accommodate 16 people.

“We’re still working on a daytime fix,” said warming center coordinator Christina Petsinis. “People ask us in the morning, ‘Where can I go?'”

A COVID-19 outbreak at The Lighthouse shelter in Orillia has amplified the situation.

Executive Director Linda Goodall said the situation is frustrating as the shelter has beds. “It’s a really difficult thing for us because we want to get people off the streets.”

She said the shelter had beds reserved for the isolation rooms if anyone tested positive.

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