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Welcoming people in during the storm


Hayley Murdoch-Fyke would never turn someone away on a night like this.

The executive director of the John Howard Society only has 18 beds to offer people needing to get off the streets in the minus 25-Celsius degree temperatures.

"I would bring them in and try to divert them to another shelter," said Murdoch-Fyke Friday afternoon as she scrambled to ensure they had enough staff to open early at 2 p.m.

Murdoch-Fyke is allowed to open for 45 nights per year on Simcoe County's dime until the end of March.

"So far, I think we've used 10 nights," she said.

But the Arctic blast that blew in Friday with a wind chill forecasted to dip down to -35 to 45 overnight, has warming shelters all across the region making up beds for their frigid guests.

In Barrie, the new Rose Street Shelter has 50 beds available, and the Busby Centre has another 50 on Mulcaster Street.

"We were not full (Thursday night), and we didn't have to turn anyone away," said Sara Peddle, executive director of the Busby Centre.

She said that the Busby also has a few flex beds and a motel voucher program if required.

In Barrie, there is also the Elizabeth Fry Society, serving women and gender-diverse people. The Salvation Army Bayside Mission serves men, and Youth Haven, serves youths aged 16 to 24.

Farther south, the Town of Innisfil and the Innisfil ideaLAB & Library also opened warming centres to pull people in from the cold until 5 p.m. The three library branches are also open Saturday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

In Orillia, the Orillia City Centre is open Friday until 4:30, and the public library on Mississaga St. is open until 6 p.m. and will be open again on Saturday until 5 p.m.

Liam McEwen, a student placement worker at Orillia's Lighthouse shelter said they had 40 guests Thursday night but can fit 50 in a pinch.

"We're normally closed 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. but we're open today," McEwen said. "Community members aer staying here and helping out."

Weather conditions can be monitored at Public Weather Alerts Ontario. Top Stories

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