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Orillia launches new supportive housing program to combat homelessness

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The City of Orillia is set to introduce a new temporary supportive rapid rehousing program, mirroring the one in operation on Rose Street in Barrie.

Orillia Mayor Don McIsaac highlighted the program's role in providing housing solutions for up to 180 days while offering essential support services.

"This is a transitionary program for homeless people," McIsaac explained. "We hope to be able to have someone who is homeless get into a situation where they get support, they get counselling, they can get help finding a home, finding a job, and get a permanent home."

Financial backing for the facility includes $100,000 from the City over five years and roughly $800,000 from the County.

Initially, the program will accommodate 20 to 40 individuals in its inaugural year, scaling up to support up to 200 people over its five-year planned operation.

City Councillor Janet-Lynne Durnford underscored the program's core principle of "housing first," providing a stable living environment for individuals experiencing homelessness.

"The whole idea of this project is that people who are relatively newly homeless will have somewhere to live," she added.

The initiative aims to alleviate pressure on existing shelters like the Lighthouse.

"We're full every single night," said Linda Goodall, executive director at the Lighthouse shelter in Orillia. Goodall added that the rehousing project could "free up space for those living on the streets."

"The rapid supportive rehousing program last summer did very well. It had about a 90 per cent success rate. Eighteen out of 20 people were permanently housed in less than 180 days," noted Mina Fayez-Bahgat, County of Simcoe Social and Community Services general manager.

The next phase for the City involves securing a suitable location on a transit route.

"We need a piece of land that is habitable, that is flat, that has some parking, and essentially a piece of land that we can put a modular housing unit as soon as possible with as little preparation as possible," said Durnford.

As the City explores potential sites, the County will engage in finding an agency to operate the facility, with the goal of having it operational by fall.

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