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County to buy Essa Road site for wrap-around housing pilot

The project will be completed in several phases, starting with the motel and the neighbouring home that has been used as an office

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story and headline have been edited to clarify that Simcoe County has not yet reached a deal to purchase two properties that are the proposed site of a new wrap-around housing project

Redwood Park Communities and the David Busby Street Centre can begin planning on how to transform the long-time Barr’s Motel into a new wrap-around housing project to help those struggling with chronic homelessness.

At county council this week, Warden Gerry Marshall announced the county is ready to negotiate to buy two properties in Barrie – 164 Essa Road and 170 Essa Road, located south of Anne Street and north of Fairview Road.

The supportive housing development, the first in the region, is a joint venture between the David Busby Street Centre and Redwood Park Communities, both which serve those struggling to stay housed and to rebuild their lives, with support from the City of Barrie and Simcoe County, which delivers regional social services.

“The pilot project would provide an opportunity to introduce an innovative format of affordable housing, intended to meet the needs of the chronically homeless who often face a myriad of additional challenges,” said Jan Janssen, the county’s children and community services director.

“Services would be delivered through a Housing First approach, which essentially relies on a range of supports provided through strong community partnerships and service coordination. Some examples include the provision of mental health supports, life skills training, addictions outreach and on-site staff 24/7.”

County council decided to proceed with the project in late June.

Over the summer, staff worked on the land purchase, which was announced at county council Wednesday. Janssen would not say what the land costs were.

“The initial project capital budget is estimated at $2.4 million and annual operating costs are anticipated at $300,000,” she added.

The project will be completed in several phases, starting with the motel and the neighbouring home that has been used as an office.

A timeline has yet to be determined on how the project will take shape and when.

Simcoe County continues to wait for word on its application for a $1.8-million Home for Good grant that will help with renovations required to create five units in the house and 12 in the motel.

 “Additionally, local community members, faith communities, service groups, the business sector – all would be invited to contribute to fundraising efforts to support both motel conversion costs and operating costs respectively,” Janssen added.

Laurie Watt

About the Author: Laurie Watt

A journalist with 35 years experience in newspapers, Laurie is also an active volunteer in Barrie.
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