The 20 new temporary beds approved for Safe Harbour’s warming centre cannot come soon enough.
On the same night they were approved by Red Deer council, the shelter had to turn away six people from its mats program.
In November, staff had to turn people away 75 times. The newly-approved beds will go into the warming centre.
Executive director Kath Hoffman compared what they do for the homeless to a MASH unit, helping people in an emergency crisis situation and being that first step for them.
“We want to help whoever we can, however we can,” she said.
The new beds will be used when the main facility, which has 26 beds, is at at capacity. The warming centre is currently open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and with the addition of the new mats it would reopen at 8 p.m. to accommodate new clients. In the time being, staff will lay the mats at the former ATCO trailer.
Tuesday morning, about 20 or so people had come to the warming centre. Some slept in chairs pushed together, others slept with their face on a table.
Melissa Gouvreau, shift lead, walked around doing a head count and talking with clients. She estimated about five or six of the people there during the day would return for a mat that evening.
Throughout the day, she said she’ll see about 80 or so people come to the shelter.
“You can see a lot of yourself in them,” she said.
During the day, the warming centre provides more than just a place to get out of the cold. They try to connect people coming in with housing supports, meal support and in touch with mental health care workers through the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Hoffman is proud of the work her staff do every day to help those who need the service Safe Harbour provides.
“They have an ability to welcome and connect with clients and a genuine desire to do what they can for people,” said Hoffman. “It’s an extraordinary skill set.”