Posted to Member Events, Press Release


Friday, June 8th, 2018 (Barrie, Ontario)


There is an affordable housing crisis in Simcoe County, which is affecting Barrie as a city. In the downtown, homelessness is becoming more visible as a result. For the 2017-2018 winter season, the Centralized Shelter Intake program saw an average of 70 individuals seeking shelter per night, up from an average of 40 in previous years. This increase was in addition to those already staying in our local shelters, which were also exceeding capacity through the winter.

To help connect those experiencing homelessness in our downtown to the services they need, the Barrie Chapter of the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness (SCATEH) is rolling out the HEART (Housing Engagement and Response Team) program.

The HEART program aims to engage all people who are living, or at risk of living, on Barrie’s streets by delivering walking street outreach to individuals and families experiencing homelessness in and around Barrie, from May to November. “Our outreach workers offer respectful engagement and immediate, judgment-free supports,” said Sara Peddle, Executive Director of the Busby Street Centre and Chair of SCATEH. “Everyone is houseable, and that will be our ultimate goal. The only solution to homelessness is housing and appropriate supports.”

Building on the downtown walking outreach pilot program that the Busby Centre has been offering for the last two years, this initiative is a collaboration of several agencies offering social services, including the Gilbert Centre, Youth Haven, the Regional Housing First Team, Barrie Housing Resource Centre, and the Barrie Community Health Centre. “The Busby Centre has long been a trusted leader in assisting those experiencing homelessness in Barrie,” notes SCATEH Barrie Chapter Chair Jennifer van Gennip. “This collaboration is exciting as it will mean a broader coordination of services to offer to 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. This program aims to support people where they are at, while empowering them to regain choices in their lives.”

The initiative is being welcomed by the Downtown Barrie Business Association (BIA). “The Downtown is an inclusive community. It is more than just a commercial district. Our involvement in the HEART program gives us the opportunity of being part of the solution to end homelessness and build a strong community.” HEART members will be patrolling the downtown from 6-8am each weekday morning, and weekends from 4- 7pm. They’ll be out in pairs, and can be identified by their bright purple backpacks. In addition to serving those experiencing homelessness, they will be connecting with business owners to let them know about the supports available, and how to make a referrals if they see someone who looks like they could use some help.

The HEART team can be reached at 1-877-845-0840. About SCATEH The Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness (SCATEH) is a local movement to prevent and end homelessness in Simcoe County. We do this through coordinated strategies, advocacy, and awareness. Learn more at