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Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness rolls out new HEART program

The David Busby Street Centre is located at 88 Mulcaster Street in Barrie.
The David Busby Street Centre is located at 88 Mulcaster Street in Barrie. Hannah Jackson / Global News

Those experiencing homelessness in the Barrie area may see a little bit of relief in the coming months.

According to a release sent out by the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness (SCATEH), a new program developed to address the affordable housing crisis in the area has been rolled out.

The Housing Engagement and Response Team (HEART) program aims to engage people who are living, or are at risk of living on the streets in Barrie. The program is designed to deliver street outreach to individuals and families experiencing homelessness in and around Barrie from May to November.

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According to SCATEH, the program will build on the downtown walking outreach program that the Busby Street Centre has been offering the last two years. The new initiative is a collaboration between several housing agencies, including the Gilbert Centre, Youth Haven, Barrie Housing Resource Centre, the Regional Housing First team and Barrie Community Health Centre.

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“This collaboration is exciting as it will mean a broader coordination of services to offer someone in their time of need. Many people are experiencing homelessness out of a lack of choice in housing, financial stability, health, access to treatment, etc.,” said SCATEH Barrie chapter chairperson Jennifer Van Gennip in a statement. She says this program aims to support people where they are at, while empowering them to regain choices in their lives.

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HEART members will patrol downtown Barrie each weekday morning from 6 to 8 a.m., and on weekends from 4 to 7 p.m., in pairs. Members will be identifiable by their bright purple backpacks.

“Our outreach workers offer respectful engagement and immediate judgment-free supports,” Sara Peddle, executive director of the Busby Street Centre, said in a statement. “Everyone is houseable and that will be our ultimate goal. The only solution to homelessness is housing and appropriate supports.”