Belleville Council seeks new location for 2022-23 warming center

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City Council appealed Monday to building owners in the city to host a warming center dedicated to the homeless that will open every night all winter for 2022-2023 and not just on nights when the temperatures drop dangerously below minus 10°C.

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Bridge Street United Church said it would no longer offer its premises as a warming center for the coming winter, leaving the town scrambling to find a new facility as an overnight shelter.

The church, however, will continue to offer its daily food programs.

The city has until June 30 to find a new location and notify the Hastings County Joint Health and Human Services Committee that oversees the warming center program with funding from the cities of Belleville and Quinte.

Com. Garnet Thompson said he was happy to hear that the warming center programs could be held again this winter every night in Belleville to help those less fortunate.

“It’s wonderful that we’re doing it. We know there is a dire need. It’s bigger every year,” Thompson said. “It has to be a stable and accessible place and it’s important that the public knows that there is someone, that there is a group of people who are working to obtain this location.”

The city council agreed to set aside $25,000 from its social infrastructure fund to pay for the additional $51,000 to set up a night warming center for the entire winter and not just on days when the temperature drops below minus 10°C.

Councilors voted to earmark the money for Hastings County to run the centers nightly this winter – pending any reimbursement of county funding should additional funding materialize.

Mayor Mitch Panciuk noted that Belleville was one of the first cities to open an emergency warming center until it was later taken over by Hastings County.

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Panciuk thanked Bridge Street United Church for hosting the Night Warming Center and asked the owners to offer a building to take over the operations of the Warming Center.

“I believe it is appropriate for us to appeal to the community. There’s been a lot of talk about who would do this. There is funding available from Hastings County to compensate a landowner to have this facility,” Panciuk said.

“Anyone who has a suggestion can contact the fire chief [Monique] Belair, chief of our emergency services and it is his responsibility. Let the Chief know if you have a suitable facility, building, structure, that can house the 2022-2023 Emergency Warming Center,” he said.

He also suggested the city offer up to $25,000 to “run all winter and my rationale is that’s about half the total cost to Hastings County.” [for all-winter provision] for us to cover half and the other municipalities cover their half.

If other funding can be found by Hastings County to keep the warming center open nightly through the winter, Panciuk said the $25,000 could go to the social infrastructure fund.

Com. Health and Human Services Committee member Bill Sandison said last winter the three warming centers operated in Hastings County operated for 84 days when temperatures dipped below minus 10C.

If the warming center operated all winter, it would be open for 106 nights, he said.

“I expect we will have a more robust warming center this year once we identify the location,” he said.

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