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Busby Centre expands to serve growing homeless population

'We have many community partners that come in to provide their services onsite, however we cannot provide them with appropriate space,' said Sara Peddle of the Busby Centre
88 and 90 Mulcaster St. in Barrie

The Busby Centre is stretching out in Barrie.

Already using 88 Mulcaster St., the Busby will soon be at 90 Mulcaster too.

Its current user, the Canadian Mental Health Association Simcoe County Branch (CMHA SCB), plans to relocate to a new space, to be announced later. And the Busby Centre is purchasing 88/90 Mulcaster from the CMHA.

These changes are a joint effort to respond to the increasing challenges of homelessness, housing insecurity, mental health and addiction crises.

“We are currently using the same spaces for multiple programs and with no real private space for people to work one-on-one with one of our staff or visiting partners,” said Sara Peddle, the Busby Centre’s executive director, about why more space is needed. “We have many community partners that come in to provide their services onsite, however we cannot provide them with appropriate space.

“This expansion will assist us to provide more effective services and provide new opportunities for collaboration, as well as more shelter beds.”

The Busby Centre has just less than 6,000 square feet at 88 Mulcaster and will gain roughly 10,000 sq. ft. at 90 Mulcaster.

It serves approximately 125-150 individuals within a 24-hour period. Peddle says there are no projected numbers, as of yet, for how many could be served with the new space. 

She said the Busby will remain open basically 24/7. It’s open 7 p.m. - 8 a.m. for shelter and 9 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. for drop-in services and the community meal program – with brief closures to tear down and set up programs in between.

“We are currently in the process of evaluating the space, engaging community partners and exploring who can collectively use the space, to best serve those experiencing homelessness in our community,” Peddle said.

“By re-imagining our services and facilities, we can better respond to the pressing needs of individuals experiencing homelessness and gambling, substance use and mental health challenges,” said Dr. Valerie Grdisa, chief executive officer of the CMHA’s Simcoe County Branch.

Peddle said the Busby has been leasing space from the CMHA since moving to 88 Mulcaster.

The partnership between these two agencies dates back to 2015 when they co-ordinated what’s called a shared social service facility through Barrie Pathways, which aimed to provide comprehensive support to individuals and families experiencing homelessness in the community.

This facility encompasses services such as a drop-in program, community meals, emergency shelter services and complementary housing and health services from various community partners, including Empower Simcoe, Ontario Works, County of Simcoe Paramedic Services, CMHA, the Elizabeth Fry Society’s purposeful reintegration team and Listening Post.

The Busby Centre is a community not-for-profit organization which advocates for and improves conditions for individuals and families experiencing homelessness or at risk of being homeless within the County of Simcoe, including Barrie, and the south Georgian Bay area.