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Orillia shelter expands mobile outreach to 7 days a week with County backing

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Earlier this year, The Lighthouse in Orillia initiated a three-month pilot outreach program funded with $35,000 from the County of Simcoe, and now it has secured further County funding to extend its new mobile service from five to seven days a week for an entire year.

"Being able to have our team out there on the streets, in the trails, helping seven days per week is huge, especially with the increase that's happening," said Linda Goodall, The Lighthouse executive director.

With funding for additional staff, the outreach van can travel around the community on weekends when many social services aren't available.

"Every day I wake up, I get something. If I need water, I get water, so I'm not giving up. I'm still trying. I've got people here that are helping me, so thank you," said Amber Dawn Johnston, who has also received food and a sleeping bag from the service.

"It's just giving them the support. Some people just want to be able to see somebody. Some people we find in encampments that are by themselves and don't come out. It's just to check on them and say hi to them. They love that," said Outreach Supervisor Lynn Gates.

Officials with The Lighthouse say the cost of living and lack of affordable housing have caused a log jam where supply isn't close to keeping up with demand.

"Every day, our workers are seeing more and more people, more and more need. From the beginning of September even until yesterday, the numbers have probably doubled," said Goodall.

The outreach van isn't just about providing bagged meals. It's about being a visible presence that can help to provide resources from housing and medical assistance to daily needs.

"Sleeping bags when we have them available. When it's a night of rain, the next morning they're wet, they're cold. We try to help them warm up and give them some extra socks or boxers or new shoes," explained Gates.

While The Lighthouse welcomes donations of tents and tarps for those who can't find space in the shelter, as the weather begins to turn, they will also be opening a warming centre for overflow of those in need.

If you see someone in the community and you aren't sure if they are in need of help, you can email The Lighthouse, and the outreach team will follow up.

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