Warming centers close in Barrie with hopes of opening earlier next winter

Winter came to an official end weeks ago, but Barrie’s cooler weather has lingered into spring.

After several days of temperatures below zero, warming centers in the heart of the city remained open.

But on Thursday, after 10 weeks, the city’s two warming centers closed their doors.

“We were averaging about 145 to 165 visits per week at both centers,” said Suzanna McCarthy, executive director of the John Howard Society Simcoe Muskoka.

In late January, the organization transformed the basement of Trinity Anglican Church into a warming center during the day.

At night, people were welcomed at the Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County on Anne street.

“We are working closely with the City and County and are going to be authoring a report and releasing it just highlighting our successes, our learning, and recommendations for next winter,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy noted they plan on working with the City to open the warming centers well before the new year moving forward.

“We started talks about the warming centers in November. It was just too late and opened in January. There was a lot of bureaucracy to jump through,” said City Councilor Natalie Harris.

Harris, who has been an advocate for the warming center’s throughout the winter, said the City is already in talks about next winter.

“We need to shift gears and start the conversations from scratch and make something permanent,” Harris said regarding funding on a municipal and provincial level.

Jay Carr spent much of November, December and part of January building makeshift shelters to escape the elements.

Until the warming centers closed on Thursday, the 44-year old said he spent each day warming up and or volunteering at the shelter.

“If they didn’t have the warming center, I probably would have been close to freezing to death,” Carr said.

Carr said the warming centers became a community, and he made countless friends but added he is hopeful to have permanent housing by next winter.

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