As the lead donor in converting a small emergency shelter and soup kitchen into The Lighthouse community services and supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness, the James A. Burton Family Foundation (JABFF) extends heartfelt gratitude to the government of Ontario for its $200-million increase to the provincial homelessness prevention program.
This funding boost marks an 86 per cent increase for the County of Simcoe in 2023, from $11.3 million to $21 million, with a portion dedicated to The Lighthouse. This additional funding helps narrow the disparity between the former budget of $6,500 annually for each shelter bed and the actual operational costs, which range between $20,000 to $25,000.
The JABFF, led by board chairperson Jim Burton, a native of Orillia, took a monumental step in its financial support of The Lighthouse, helping the homeless shelter reach its ambitious $14.5-million fundraising goal during the pandemic. The foundation issued a successful 3 to 1 challenge, which saw the Orillia community raise over $300,000, triggering a further donation of over $900,000 from JABFF.
“My hometown connection to Orillia is deeply rooted, so I viewed this as an opportunity to reciprocate the love and values instilled in me by this community, to care for one another and help those in need,” Jim Burton said in a press release. “There isn’t one of us, including the members of my family, who hasn’t needed support at some point in our lives.”
In honour of his son, Jeffrey Burton, who passed away 11 years ago, Burton’s foundation also pledged an additional $1 million to establish a new Youth Wing of the Lighthouse community services. This gesture underscores the foundation’s commitment to addressing mental health and addiction issues, which are deeply personal to the Burton family.
The JABFF contribution, coupled with the investment by the province and the County of Simcoe, will significantly impact The Lighthouse’s operations, enhancing outreach programs, staff sustainability, mental health services and ensuring continuity of essential services, especially as winter approaches.
“Partnering with the County of Simcoe and the James A. Burton Family Foundation allows us to support our unhoused community better and solidify our reach for our services,” The Lighthouse Executive Director Linda Goodall said in a press release. “The need has never been greater.”