SARNIA, ONT. -- Lambton County is welcoming provincial pandemic funding that local agencies say couldn’t come at a more needful time.

The provincial government on Wednesday announced Lambton is on the receiving end of $2,278,922, its latest allotment from the province’s Social Services Relief Fund.

The funding will be used to help temporarily house people in local hotels and motels, keeping them out of shelters and congregate settings where the COVID-19 virus can spread.

“We were worrying,” says Inn of the Good Shepherd executive director Myles Vanni.

“We figured with the funding we had through the province and the county that we would only have a couple months left. And then where do we put all these folks?”

On any given night more than 200 people are being put up at temporary accommodations.

London Line in Sarnia, Ont.

London Line in Sarnia, Ont.on March 10, 2021. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV London)

The funding will also help Lambton County divert households from the emergency shelter system altogether, according to Ian Hanney, Lambton County’s supervisor of homeless prevention.

“When you make amends with an existing landlord. When you try to find another friend or family member. Perhaps it’s looking at some rental arrears with their existing landlord.”

The funding comes as the Inn of the Good Shepherd Lodge deals with a COVID-19 outbreak of its own. According to Vanni, 10 people have tested positive, including seven clients and three staff members.

“Our staff are all doing long hours, double shifts, just trying to keep it open and look after people.”