County uses collaboration and innovation to help homeless during pandemic

·2 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in number of individuals who are homeless and in need of shelter.

There are several factors that have come into play that have increased homelessness in the County including unemployment and an increase in individuals being released from incarceration and hospitals.

Simcoe County's Social and Community Services team, in conjunction with funded service providers, public health, and broader community partners, have embraced innovative opportunities to provide urgent support to vulnerable homeless populations.

As the Municipal Service Manager for the region, the County continues to leverage enhanced funding from both the Federal and Provincial Governments to assist local homeless service providers in addressing the needs of those they serve, while also providing additional poverty reduction supports to low-income families.

“COVID-19 has created challenges for all sectors and as the Regional Service Manager, our Social and Community Services staff have stepped up to support urgent needs,” said Warden George Cornell. “We’re grateful to all our partners for working with us to protect our most vulnerable populations. Our Council is committed to assisting our communities and will continue to do all we can within our capacity to help ensure that the needs of our vulnerable populations continue to be understood and addressed.”

The County has taken several steps to address the problem.

In mid March, 2020, the County responded quickly to authorize funding to support homeless shelter service providers in relocating and housing their respective occupants within motels located throughout the region.

The use of motel rooms has subsequently been cited by Public Health as best practice, relative to both physical distancing and isolation of individuals.

At the onset of the pandemic, the County and community partners adopted a collaborative approach intended to fill the gaps left when many social or health services were forced to temporarily suspend in-person support.

The emergency motel program will remain in place thanks to an additional $3.8 million in funding from the SSRF. This was announced in March 2021.

The County alongwiht community partners, is now planning for a transition to recover, guiding how programs and individuals will return to community settings when it is safe to do so.

Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times