web1_170207-RDA--Cold-Weather-MAB-story-2

Red Deer homeless shelters meet the need during cold spell

Dangerous cold prompts Environment Canada warning

The society that helps shelter Red Deer’s homeless is in desperate need of gloves or mittens as plunging temperatures and cold winds combine to make for dangerous outdoor conditions.

Kath Hoffman, executive director of Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing, said Tuesday that the warming centre and its other shelters — the mat program and People’s Place emergency shelter — are being well used during this latest cold snap.

On Tuesday morning, Environment Canada issued an extreme cold warning for Red Deer and parts of Central Alberta when temperatures hovered around -30 C, but felt like about -40 C with the wind. The overnight temperature was expected to drop down again to -30 C.

The forecast for Wednesday is warmer but still cold, with a high of -15 C and a low of -22 C. If the forecast later in the week holds, the city is expected to see above-zero temperatures return on Sunday to 4 C.

The warming centre, located in three joined trailers in the parking lot of Safe Harbour at 5256 53rd Ave., was used by 72 people on Monday, and all three facilities are being well utilized.

The warming centre is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It opened last year. People can get winter clothes there as well as get warm, Hoffman said.

The centre is in need of gloves and mitts, she said, as they go quickly and get lost easily. Gloves are preferred because with mittens, people have to remove them when they need to use their fingers.

Safe Harbour has had enough space in their shelters all year and hasn’t had to worry about enough space, Hoffman said.

“We all breathe a big sigh of relief when that happens. So we’re happy to say with this cold weather we have the spaces for people to come into and get warm, during the day and night. Nobody’s getting turned away.”

The mat program, at 5246 53rd Ave., which accepts all clients including those who under the influence of substances, has 26 spaces and operates from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily.

Peoples Place emergency shelter, located at 6002 54 Ave., can house 35 adults, and operates from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.. Both programs operate 365 days a year.

There are still people that choose not to use a shelter, Hoffman said. “But they know it’s there and they know they’re welcome.”

Rather than the “Band-Aid” solution that exists now, and which is better than nothing, Hoffman said, there’s work being done now on a more permanent housing solution.

There are a lot of “in the meantime” people who do not have a safe place to wait for things like surgery or addictions treatment, including seniors with addictions, who are hard to house, Hoffman said.

Both the provincial government and City of Red Deer are mindful of this and working toward solutions, she said.

Safe Harbour Society is in need of numerous other items besides gloves, especially pillows now, too. Other needs include indoor and outdoor clothing, toiletries, laundry soap, gift cards, backpacks and non-perishable snacks.

barr@reddeeradvocate.com