SUDBURY -- A new drop-in centre at the Samaritan Centre offers newspapers to read, free coffee, a visiting space and separate rooms equipped with telephones and computers.

"With COVID-19, everything that was accessible to the clients that we serve, the homeless and vulnerable clients of Sudbury, everything was closed quickly, everything was shut down abruptly," said Lisa Long, the executive director of the Samaritan Centre. "All these public spaces that our clients had access to, they no longer had access to."

The drop-in centre was made possible through $50,000 in funding by the federal government that was administered by the United Way Centraide North East Ontario.

"We know that we are still in the rebuilding and recovery stage of COVID-19, but it is essential programs like the drop-in centre, as well as much of the other work that is happening in the community, that truly is making a difference in the lives of many, many people in our community," said Shelly Lachapelle, communications manger of United Way Northeastern Ontario.

Derek Johnathon Marshall has been living on the streets in Sudbury for the past year. He uses the drop-in centre and said he's grateful for all the services at the Samaritan Centre.

"It helps a lot with resources, clothes, food, and lining up housing. It helps with computers, mail," Marshall said.

He said the drop-in centre is helping vulnerable people feel less isolated. When everything shut down, it was tough.

"It was quiet for a while. There was not very much people around, almost looked like apocalyptic, like a post-war colony at the time, but now everything (is) starting to opening up," said Marshall.

Officials at the Samaritan Centre say donations of ground coffee and disposable, 8-ounce coffee cups are always welcome. Given COVID-19 precautionary measures, cups must be thrown out after one use.

The United Way Northeastern Ontario recently distributed almost $1 million in federal funding to 28 local programs to help charitable organizations meet needs arising from the pandemic.