A practicum student from Red Deer College makes a bed at The Mustard Seed’s homeless shelter, which has increased its accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Pandemic drives demand for Mustard Seed services

Few clients identified with possible COVID-19 symptoms

The Mustard Seed has expanded its sober homeless shelter to include space at a downtown church to make room for people during the pandemic.

The agency is working with City Chapel to access the additional space. Efforts are also underway with partners, including CrossRoads Church and the Red Deer Food Bank, to help families access food, including the continuation of its school lunch program, food hampers, counselling, and more.

“About 75 per cent of people who come to The Mustard Seed for support are actually housed. We’re trying to do whatever we can to support these vulnerable families,” said Byron Bradley, the agency’s central Alberta managing director.

He said 46 shelter beds are available at The Mustard Seed’s building and the nearby City Chapel, and so far, very few clients with possible COVID-19 symptoms have needed to be moved to an isolation centre.

“If need be, they are isolated, but that’s under the direction of Alberta Health Services. They deal with it on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re very thankful there haven’t been many challenges. We do know that our population is very vulnerable,” Bradley said.

Earlier this month, Safe Harbour Society also expanded its daytime warming centre for homeless adults, and its overnight mat program for those who are intoxicated or high, to the former Cannery Row Bingo, where there was more space.

Kath Hoffman, Safe Harbour Society executive director, said that likewise, very few clients have exhibited possible COVID-19 symptoms and required isolation by AHS.

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Bradley said shelter use is typically around 80 per cent, but dipped recently after government funding programs were announced. However, demand for The Mustard Seed’s services will likely continue to increase as people are stretched financially, he said.

“We know in three, six months from now, families are going to need supports, some of them for the first time ever. We want to be positioned to do what we can.”

He said those with mental health challenges are also needing more assistance.

“There are a lot of new people facing mental health barriers in their lives. We just want to get the word out — call us at The Mustard Seed.”

He said staff and volunteers will do whatever they can to help and will reach out to partner agencies if necessary.

The Mustard Seed can be reached at 403-347-1844, or visit www.theseed.ca/reddeer.


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