Extreme temperatures leave homeless community in search of shelter
The bitterly cold conditions are putting anyone living on the streets in danger, which is why Barrie and Orillia opened emergency warming centres overnight on Tuesday to help those with no place to go.
The Orillia centre isn't much more than a few chairs in a hallway, but those who took advantage of it were grateful to be out of the cold.
"It's a little bit of respite from the steep temperatures. It's pretty cold outside," said one woman as she huddled on the floor of the centre.
The woman, who didn't want to be identified, said she spent the night at the community church to escape the cold, and was desperately trying to find a bed in a shelter "basically anywhere in Simcoe County."
The Orillia Community Church has been in continuous usage since it opened a few weeks ago.
The mayor said they were looking into reopening the library to help during the cold days.
"They were having staffing issues and had to close last week, so we're actually having some discussions to see if we can move some staff around within the city," said Steve Clarke.
Meanwhile, in Barrie, the bus terminal offered a lifeline for about a dozen people Monday night.
The city opened it as an emergency warming centre because of the extreme weather conditions and said things would be different moving forward.
"In the past, the city has used Environment Canada's -30 temperature for when it opens an emergency warming centre. Going forward, after general committees discussion last night, the city is going to be using -20 as the mark," said Dawn McAlpine, City of Barrie.
Barrie City Councillor Natalie Harris said the fire department checked on an undisclosed location and will check on a residence on Wednesday that could potentially be used as a warming centre.
"If it's a thumbs up, we will get the keys immediately for 236 Dunlop," Harris said.
At Monday evening's meeting, city council agreed to allocate $20,000 toward the warming centre. Harris is waiting to find out if the County of Simcoe will match it.