Discussion on warming centre required by Red Deer city council

Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing

City council must decide the future of Safe Harbour’s warming centre.

The existing bylaw only allows the centre to operate out of three portables in the parking lot of Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing until April 30.

The bylaw provided the warming centre with a temporary location for two years. Council approved funding to purchase and install the portables and operational costs.

No date has been set yet for the bylaw to return to city council.

The downtown centre, located at 5256 53rd Ave., has been running seven days a week from Nov. 1 to April 30, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to give those who are homeless a warm place to go during the day.

“We’re anticipating having to operate it again, which means having to go back and having that bylaw changed,” said Tricia Haggarty-Roberts, Safe Harbour’s operations director.

On average about 60 people visit the centre each day.

She said it can be difficult to properly manage clients with only three staff because as much activity goes on outside the centre as inside.

“People are in and out, smoke, congregate. If it’s a nice day, they don’t want to be inside. That’s hard to staff when you have an outdoor program and that’s not what it’s intended for.

“The space and structure is OK. But it doesn’t provide the space to really run the program as we would like and have that oversight.”

She said the portables don’t allow for extra programming for activities that clients would find useful or meaningful.

At this point Safe Harbour is not looking at moving the location of the warming centre and is waiting to see what type of project the city has planned for the future to assist those in need of housing or overnight shelter, Haggarty-Roberts said.

In the meantime, Safe Harbour and other community housing agencies have been working to address the needs of those people who have been homeless the longest.

“We’ve put a focus on getting the big time shelter users out of shelter and into housing as well as rough sleepers into housing. Collectively we’ve had a good effort on rough sleepers this winter.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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