GODERICH, ONT. -- Huron County has seen enough.

“This isn’t just a big city problem, we pretended it was for years, but we can’t anymore,” says Goderich Mayor John Grace.

Huron County officials estimate as many as 50 people are homeless in the county right now. But, that’s just the people they know about.

“With COVID, it’s really highlighted it. People are a lot less likely to have someone come in and sleep on their couch, because of the virus. It’s become more pronounced this year, for sure,” says Huron County Warden Jim Ginn.

For the past several years, volunteers and church groups have run the Out of the Cold program in Goderich to house Huron’s homeless during the winter months.

This winter, Huron County is taking over. They’re opening their own winter shelter, staffed with mental health professionals.

“We’re very thankful volunteers stepped forward in previous years, but we need to build trust with these people. A lot of times we have things available for them, but they just won’t access them because of fear or trauma in their lives. We need to work with them and build a relationship with them and hopefully in the long term get them housed,” says Ginn.

Affordable housing is the long-term goal, but for this winter at least, Huron County will be in charge of looking after their own homeless residents.

“These people are not from away. They could be from Goderich, Clinton, Bayfield, but they are Huron County folks. It’s our people that are struggling. It’ll be us that resolves the issue,” says Grace.

Huron County’s homeless shelter will be in Goderich, and is expected to be ready to house residents by early November, if not sooner.