As Winter sets in, local organizations are working to meet the growing need for warm beds and hot meals at emergency shelters throughout our community. While the weather is unpredictable,
the increasing demand for help is guaranteed.
It’s a reality that Linda Goodall says the Lighthouse Soup Kitchen and Shelter in Orillia prepares for. Just like a lighthouse that sits at the edge of an ocean and guides ships to safety, this shelter “guides the vulnerable out of life’s storms.”
“We are busy year-round, serving more than 25,000 meals to men, women and families and offering accommodation to as many as 14 men in the emergency shelter each night,” she says.
“As it gets colder and snowy, people think more about those experiencing homelessness,” says Linda Goodall, executive director. “We have been collecting gloves, toques, warm socks and winter coats for men and women.”
In addition to struggling to meet the growing need for shelter in the area, the Light House is also an extreme cold warming station for anyone needing a break from the frigid temperatures.
In Barrie, construction has been underway for months at the David Busby Centre at 88 Mulcaster Street – the new permanent home of the Out of the Cold program. The change will improve access and offer more intensive help for those with complex needs. An $888,000 fundraising campaign, “Making Room at 88” was launched to support the expansion.
The annual Street Light Gala in November surpassed the $35,000 fundraising goal and proceeds will help pay for the renovations. It’s just one of many ways that individuals and community groups support local shelters year-round.
Homelessness is on the rise in Barrie, partly due to high rental prices and slim vacancy rates. Over 550 individuals were identified in Simcoe County as experiencing homelessness during a 2018 survey.
That’s a crisis that stresses drop-in centres, shelters, food banks, hospitals and Barrie’s downtown core and it brings people to the David Busby Centre and the Salvation Army seeking meals, shelter, showers, warm clothing and support.
At Youth Haven in Barrie, Simcoe County’s only emergency shelter for youth, there is often “no room at the inn” as more and more young people arrive at the door seeking help.
“The sad reality is that we just don’t have enough for the number of youth we see,” explains executive director Lucy Gowers. “We really appreciate all of the support we get from the community because we really couldn’t do what we do without the help.” Food donations help to fill the pantry at the shelter, providing meals for residents.
More than 400 youth received support last year, either in the residence or through outreach programs in Barrie, Orillia, Midland and Innisfil. Fundraising efforts include the Boxes of Hope campaign to provide Christmas gifts and care packages to youth and the annual Coldest Night of the Year event
The Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness works with local shelters and other organizations to find long-term solutions that will reduce the number of people living on the street.
by Robin MacLennan
Lighthouse Soup Kitchen and Shelter
David Busby Centre
Salvation Army, Barrie Bayside Mission