Honks and hoots drew attention to a long line of camping tents set up along Barrie's waterfront to highlight the peril of the homeless.

Early Wednesday morning, nearly 160 tents were tethered along the grassy boulevard between the city marina and Victoria Street by the Elizabeth Fry Society and the Busby Centre.

Both shelters reported helping 1,100 individuals last year, more than double the pre-pandemic volume.

"There's a problem in Barrie with the amount of unhoused individuals there are, and the opioid crisis on top of COVID, so we are here today to prove a point that there's a need," said Hannah Legere, Joyce Cope House residential manager.

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Sara Peddle, executive director with the Busby Centre, said the tents were a visual representation of someone needing service.

"Right now, we do already have quite a few people living in tents, but it's somewhat hidden from the public eye, and we wanted to show that this is real."

The goal is to increase awareness ahead of next month's provincial election.

"There needs to be a tandem investment into emergency services and emergency sheltering and shelter-diversion and homelessness-diversion and also into affordable and supportive housing," said Meagan Chambers, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Simcoe Muskoka.

City Councillor Natalie Harris said talks had been going on for months to find ways to deal with those who will be displaced next month, with no immediate fix.

She noted that more affordable housing is crucial for a long-term solution.

"If we don't catch up with the backlog that we have and make some more stock, we will be seeing these types of tents across our waterfront because, unfortunately, these individuals will have nowhere to go," Harris said.

Meanwhile, police and city staff were on-hand Wednesday to discourage people from moving into the tents.