The city will kick in $17,000 to ensure a warming centre can operate this year.
Councillors Jay Fallis and Pat Hehn brought up the idea of funding a warming centre at the Lighthouse shelter. However, the location could change, council members heard during Thursday’s budget meeting.
Since discussions began, more agencies have come forward with potential funding, and a downtown church has shown support for possibly hosting the warming centre, Fallis said.
He would not yet reveal what church it is.
There was some concern expressed about having the service at the Lighthouse because that facility already houses people and there are capacity limits because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coun. Ted Emond questioned the funding source.
“It is not the municipality’s responsibility independent of our funding social services and homelessness through our contribution to the county,” he said, noting the city pays the County of Simcoe annually for social services.
The county also gets provincial and federal funding to put toward those services, he added.
The county could probably find a way to fund the warming centre, but “if we come up with the money, why would they try?” Emond asked.
Hehn is confident more funding will be made available, but she said there is an immediate need, and that includes the hiring of a co-ordinator to get the warming centre ready.
“If we don’t do that, people are going to be in the cold,” she said. “You have to be able to plan, and that’s why we need the money now.”
Talks with the county are ongoing and additional funding is “a serious possibility,” Fallis said.
“The commitment of the city certainly would make a difference in terms of their commitment as well.”
There was talk during Thursday’s meeting about providing less than the requested $17,000, but Coun. Tim Lauer wasn’t having it.
“What we’re playing with here are people’s lives,” he said. “It is almost December. Maybe in other issues we can afford the time to consult with consultants and talk to the county … but this, I think, is more urgent than that.”
When the weather begins to warm again next year, Lauer suggested the city evaluate how everything went and then make a decision on the future of a warming centre and funding.
For now, he said, $17,000 “solves the problem.”
Fallis expects more details about additional funding and, possibly, the church that might host the warming centre will be available prior to budget ratification on Dec. 6.
Operating budget talks concluded Thursday. Capital budget discussions will take place next week.