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Simcoe County working towards plan to address homelessness

Like many regions across the country, Simcoe County is working towards a solution to end homelessness and create more affordable housing.

The homelessness prevention strategy it's working on outlines a plan with 10 steps needed to increase support and decrease homelessness in the future.

The plan focuses on items like rent subsidy, which would be increased to $600-$800, increasing housing programs, enhancing shelter standards and implementing a centralized intake system.

The County is putting $9 million towards the plan, received through provincial funding.

"I do think that this is an incredibly important time, as we are equipped with the opportunity to improve the services significantly, better measure them and be more informed on what to do," said Mina Fayez-Bahgat, County of Simcoe general manager of community and social services.

"This is where our outreach and our safety and community engagement strategies will be key, and this is where the coordinates and towns will be pivotal points in delivering this."

For staff at the Lighthouse in Orillia, the need to increase support for the community's most vulnerable is vital.

"They just need help; they need compassion," said Linda Goodall, Lighthouse's executive director.

The help she is referring to is offering people a safe space to sleep while providing supportive programming at a time when demand is increasing, with over 1,000 people currently homeless in Simcoe County.

"They are people just like us. So, we need to provide that dignity and help them the best we possibly can," Goodall said.

So far, seven local shelters have submitted applications for increased programming, while the County plans to present its plan to both Barrie and Orillia councillors this week.

When it comes to the timeline of when this strategy will be finalized and when the programs will receive that funding, the County expects it to be completed by early fall.

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