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Bradford's long-awaited solution to help those in need nears opening

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The Bradford community and social services hub, an old school acquired by the town from the Simcoe County District School Board in 2020, is nearing its long-awaited opening after several delays.

"The whole idea was that we wanted to help our most vulnerable society. I thought it was something we would work towards bringing this facility so that they can come to one area and get all the services they require," says Bradford Mayor James Leduc.

Leduc says they hope to combat the rising need by offering multiple services under one roof.

"We are so close to the GTA that we are seeing a rise in homelessness right here in Bradford, right here in South Simcoe. So this was just an opportune time for us to get this building," he says.

Helping Hand Food Bank and WOW Living moved into the facility in December. Both organizations are currently operating out of the shared community space while they work to set up their own wings of the building.

WOW Living is currently running the Out of the Cold café, which offers vulnerable community members relief in the winter.

"It's allowing us to welcome people in our community that may not have a place to go in the cold weather or any time of year. Allowing them to have a coffee, some food, to have a sense of community," says WOW Living Board of Directors chair Ben Verkaik.

"We had to raise $150,000 for the renovations in our new location, so we did well with that. We're constantly fundraising so that we can offer more programs," says Warming Centre coordinator Jacquie Ridout.

The town has been lending the space to both social service agencies at no cost, but that will change once the renovations are complete - they will have to start paying rent.

"Rent is going to be a new one for us. It's something that we're actually going to have to source out funding for. The town has been very good to us in the past with very low rent. It would be raising funds from any donations that come in as well as community fundraisers," says Helping Hand Food Bank executive director Carolyn Kahn.

Leduc says the total cost of the project is around $15 million.

Construction of the community hub is expected to be complete this spring.

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