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County rolling out Community Safety Program in downtown Orillia

'These people certainly aren't trying to duplicate what the OPP does; they’re just trying to enhance and provide community support to those who need it,' says mayor
The County of Simcoe is rolling out a new Community Safety Program in downtown Orillia to improve overall safety and connect vulnerable people with needed resources.

A new Community Safety Program meant to help vulnerable people and improve safety began in downtown Orillia recently.

The County of Simcoe program brings two-person teams downtown to patrol city streets between 8 a.m. and 12 a.m., seven days a week, in an effort to connect people with needed services and improve overall safety and wellbeing in downtown Orillia.

Delivered by One Community Solutions, who were awarded a county contract to carry out the program, workers will also perform daily cleanup of drug paraphernalia and work to build relationships with local business owners and those experiencing homelessness.

“Traditionally, street outreach teams work with unsheltered individuals, including those currently residing in encampments, to facilitate access to resources and services, including emergency shelters,” said Wendy Hembruff, the county’s director of community engagement and partnerships.

“Community safety teams enhance this work through engagement with vulnerable individuals who are located within walkable downtown business areas.”

Hembruff said the program will help reduce the number of incidents in the downtown core.

“The teams on foot patrol have established rapport with vulnerable individuals and liaise with the system of homelessness prevention services by making referrals and connecting individuals with agencies and resources, including the services of street outreach teams,” she said.

The program’s arrival follows a three-month pilot in Barrie in 2023, which will continue this year, with the county recently confirming its expansion to Orillia, Collingwood, and Midland.

Community Safety Program workers are not meant to be security for downtown businesses, stated a memo to mayor and council in the May 17 council information package, and will call police if additional support is needed.

Workers will set up a defined working area in the downtown core, and will provide a cell phone number for community members to report issues in a future memo to city council.

Mayor Don McIsaac said the program will serve as a good complement to existing outreach programs and social services in the city.

“I think it will help in a big way. I mean, the OPP are doing an awful lot of hard work to make sure we're kept safe, and I think they do a commendable job. This is just an additional resource,” he said.

“These people certainly aren't trying to duplicate what the OPP does; they’re just trying to enhance and provide community support to those who need it," said McIsaac.

“It's good to reach people who are in need, and let them know where resources are and let them know that there's people out there who care about them who can help them get food, get shelter, get medical help, mental health help, and whatever they need.”

Future meetings will be held between the City of Orillia bylaw officers, One Community Solutions, Lighthouse Outreach, and the County of Simcoe to coordinate services and work toward improving safety and addressing needs in downtown Orillia.

The Community Safety Program is part of the County of Simcoe’s 10-Point Homelessness Prevention Strategy, and funding for the program comes from the 2024-2025 provincial homeless prevention funding stream.


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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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