Students Avani James, Carter Wilson and Pascale Hand were on playground equipment at Don Campbell Elementary School during their lunch break on Jan. 8, 2020. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Ready or not temperatures are starting to drop Red Deer

Shelters prepare for homeless

Red Deerians are preparing for tumbling temperatures.

Over the next few nights, lows will drop to -20 C, with -31 C predicted by Sunday and Monday night, according to Environment Canada.

On Thursday, there is a risk of frostbite when the wind chill is expected to hit -32 C during the day, before warming up to -17 C in the afternoon.

Colleen Markus, Safe Harbour Society shelter services manager, said the agency and The Mustard Seed were in contact on Wednesday to co-ordinate services to make sure no one is left out in the cold. Taxis may be needed to move people between the sites.

She said it’s always hard to predict how many people will be looking for somewhere to stay warm.

“Sometimes, when it’s that cold, we’re not always as full, because people allow guests to stay with them. You just never know,” Markus said.

“We always want to prepare for a worst-case scenario to make sure no one is out there.”

Safe Harbour operates a daytime warming centre in two connected ATCO trailers that usually has 20 overnight mats available. It also runs a 26-mat program in the Safe Harbour building for those who are intoxicated or high.

Mustard Seed operates a sober, overnight shelter with 46 beds.

She said outreach teams will check on people in local homeless camps. People can also visit the warming centre throughout the day.

“What always happens is people stay inside longer. We always have approximately 120 to 150 throughout the day in the warming centre. In the summertime, it’s a lot more in and out.”


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Byron Bradley, managing director with The Mustard Seed, said the charity is flexible and will open its doors during off hours for cold spells when staff are available.

“We want them to come and we’ll do what we can to help them warm up and be safe,” Bradley said.

During the 2018 point-in-time homeless count, the city had 144 homeless people, and in 2016, there were 149.

“It’s never perfect, but it’s definitely a good barometer for us to see how many people are out in the community,” Bradley said.

The next point-in-time homeless count is set for April 7.

Ryan Veldkamp, the city’s social planning supervisor, said local shelters have neared, but have not exceeded, their capacities, and they anticipate that they have enough spaces this winter.

“We’ve requested daily updates from them just so that we can keep apprised of the situation, and if we need to look at other options, then we’ll certainly do so,” Veldkamp said.

On Wednesday, students at Don Campbell Elementary School played outside at lunchtime when the temperature was -12 C, but -19 C with the wind chill.

Principal Cam Pizzey said when it reaches about -22 C, or there’s a high wind chill, students stay indoors, but that standard may be explored with the school council.

“For a lot of schools, it’s around -20 C, but some schools have moved to -25 C,” Pizzey said.

He said his students no longer have morning recess because it’s often too cold, and having afternoon recess allows students to be refreshed for the last hour of classes.

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Students Avani James and Mackenzie Clark were on playground equipment at Don Campbell Elementary School during their lunch break on Jan. 8, 2020. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Students Tate Pon, Mackenzie Clark, Avani James and Carter Wilson were on playground equipment at Don Campbell Elementary School during their lunch break on Jan. 8, 2020. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

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