Orillia’s overnight warming centre is ready to open when the temperature drops.
In November, city council approved putting $17,000 toward the effort, some of which was for the hiring of a co-ordinator.
That job went to Christina Petsinis, emergency weather overnight warming centre co-ordinator.
She recently graduated from Lakehead University’s social work program.
“I’m very passionate about social justice, advocacy and activism, and many people in our community are close to being in a vulnerable situation like homelessness,” she said.
“This is about helping people stay safe and enabling them to find permanent housing.”
The warming centre will be located at the Orillia Community Church at 64 Colborne St. E. It will be open from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. on nights when the temperature is -15 degrees Celsius or colder or when the city issues a weather advisory.
The warming centre — a pilot project — is being made possible thanks to support from the city, the Lighthouse shelter and community services hub, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Sharing Place Food Centre, Couchiching Jubilee House, North Simcoe Victim Services, the Orillia Community Church and the city’s affordable housing committee.
Also, Petsinis is supported in her role by a committee made up of representatives from local agencies.
“It inspires me to be able to work with the organizations,” she said. “They’re coming together to create something that is of utmost importance. We need to keep people out of the cold.”
Those who visit the warming centre will have access to a mat to sleep on, donated by Apple Athletic Products, and drinks and snacks provided by the Sharing Place.
During the intake process, visitors could be referred to other services in town depending on their situations, because the warming centre “is not a permanent solution,” Petsinis said.
Linda Goodall, executive director of the Lighthouse, welcomed the news of the warming shelter opening.
“My hope for the Orillia Warming Centre is folks on the streets due to lack of shelter and COVID will access and utilize this safe and warm space. The last thing we want is for members of our community to lose their lives due to extreme cold,” she said.
“Being able to offer something else besides the Lighthouse is critical.”
Paige Jakobczak, warming centre committee member representing Couchiching Jubilee House, also spoke about the importance of the service.
“We are in the midst of a housing crisis with no relief on the horizon. Orillia is a particularly hard hit area. However, the organizations in Orillia are very collaborative and we are highly adaptable to meet the growing needs of our most vulnerable,” she said. “This truly is a collaborative community project.”
The centre is seeking to hire four attendants, and applications are due by Friday at 4 p.m. The job posting can be found here.