Mustard Seed’s new round-the-clock operating hours are already having a big impact.
Since Nov. 1, the sober shelter has been able to offer 24/7 service to those looking for a place to stay out of the cold courtesy of additional provincial funding. The facility can accommodate 46 overnight guests.
“This has dramatically increased the number of hours we’re open to the public,” said Laura Giesbrecht, Mustard Seed director of operations.
“It came just at the right time, just before it got cold,” said Giesbrecht. “When it’s so cold out there to know that you have a safe, sober, warm space to be and you can get a warm cup of coffee, that’s a game changer for people.”
The additional hours has also led to many more guests taking advantage of Mustard Seed’s diversion program, which aims to get people out of the shelter and into housing.
As well, shelter staff are helping more people with applications for jobs or Alberta Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) support or get identification documents.
“Because we have people here all the time, we’ve seen a huge increase in those services.”
The funding is in place until 2024 and Giesbrecht hopes that the province makes it permanent. Former premier Jason Kenney announced the funding — $4.5 million in 2022-23 to expand shelters to 24/7, with $9 million allotted for 2023-24 — at the beginning of October.
The additional financial support has allowed Mustard Seed to add two more full-time and two relief staff to its roster of four full-time day staff, four evening staff and about half a dozen relief staff.