Several downtown Barrie business owners are joining forces as part of a pilot project aimed at helping the city's most vulnerable people.

The goal of the new program, Connected Core, is to streamline existing outreach efforts and train business owners downtown how to cope with issues like the city's rampant substance abuse and homelessness problem.

"They aren't necessarily aware of how to help people when they come into their business and where they can direct them," explains Sam Docherty.

Docherty has been hired as the coordinator for the Connected Core program to coach store owners in the downtown how to interact with Barrie's most vulnerable people.

She will also coordinate with local outreach teams to help ensure they work together more cohesively.

"Some people might need housing support or free meals if they haven't eaten in a while. Folks might also need employment support," she explains.

Employment support is one of the key pillars of the program. The city is working towards launching a job bank to connect marginalized people with employers willing to give them a chance. The city has eight downtown employers, including the library, already signed up for the program.

Downtown businesses will also receive Naloxone kits and employee training in how to de-escalate tense situations. The course will provide insight on how to administer the overdose antidote and gain a better understanding of mental health and addiction.