A group of citizens will be gathering this winter to put together low-cost practical tents for the homeless.

The initiative is the idea of John MacIsaac, who is part of a local group that tries to speak up locally for the homeless.

MacIsaac has already created a small tent-like structure that has been put to use already in November. Word has been getting out about his idea and now a handful of local residents have decided to help out.

Martial Gerolami is a long-time masonry contractor in North Bay. He says the idea really caught his attention.

"I saw this guy doing this for the homeless and what a nice gesture this guy is doing so I decided to message him on Facebook to ask to talk to him about what he was doing and what he needed," said Gerolami.

Using his network of contacts in the construction industry, Gerolami has received materials and funds from locals such as Coach4Food founder Tom Hedican. Thanks to Gerolami's connections and MacIsaac's hard work, the group is looking to build as many as a dozen this Saturday.

A building event will take place at an anonymous location this weekend. Anyone interested in donating or helping out during the weekend build can contact him via email at martialg1962@gmail.com.

MacIsaac, who says the individual tents cost about $110 to make, is excited about the support.

"The support has been overwhelming," said MacIsaac, who is a former drug addict who says he knows what it's like to be homeless.

"Since the story has gotten out and people have heard about it, the amount of support or donations coming in, it is just so heartwarming, I can't describe it."

Thanks to donations, MacIsaac expects they have enough funds to build a total of 24 huts before the end of the month.

"We have 10 committed and ready to be put into action and then we have another number of commitments coming in for a hut for a homeless person this Christmas," he said.

While more homeless beds will be available in a new warming centre located in downtown North Bay in the old gd2go building, MacIsaac claims the need for these tents will always be there.

See related: Second warming centre to open in the city

"A lot of people who suffer drug addiction and mental illness they have a hard time accessing these resources due to violent behaviours or a number of reasons," he said.

"So they generally opt not to go to these places because they have zero tolerance for drug use but if these are the people we are trying to help, we need to have a tolerance for them. There needs to be an open door policy."

MacIsaac says through media and social media his tents have created attention around the province as organizations from places such as Toronto, Brantford and London have reached out to find out more about his homeless tents.

He plans to make a create a video to show how to make these inexpensive huts so areas far away from North Bay can benefit too.

MacIsaac will not say where the tents will be set up and he admits he's concerned that these huts could breach a local bylaw. He's hoping that's not the case.

"Everyone sees there is a real need for this whether there are permissions or not."

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