Red Deer shelters packed during cold snap

Red Deer overnight homeless shelters have been running at capacity during this week’s cold snap.

Red Deer overnight homeless shelters have been running at capacity during this week’s cold snap.

As temperatures dipped below -20C with windchills making it feel colder than -35, people without shelter have found ways to keep warm during the day and at night.

One man, who goes by the street name of Savage, was sitting in the warmth of the offices of Central Alberta AIDS Network Society at 48th Street and 50th Avenue on Wednesday. He said he sleeps outside “over there” in the bush.

When asked how he handles this bitter chill, he chuckles and says, “We don’t cry.”

Savage has a tent and blankets.

He doesn’t think about accessing any of the several indoor shelters provided to people.

“The warriors are too strong,” said Savage.

Moyra, who didn’t provide a last name, used to have a place to stay but she was evicted a couple of days ago. The first night she stayed at the mats shelter and the next night at a friend’s place.

“Basically, I hang around here until the mats program is open,” said Moyra, sitting at the CAANS office on a couch. “If the mats program is full, they send you to the Winter Inn and that’s quite far away to walk when it’s cold.”

Safe Harbour Society runs the “Mats” overnight shelter for 20 adults who are under the influence of substances. Plus, it operates the 23-bed emergency shelter People’s Place.

Winter Inn, at Loaves and Fishes, provides 30 beds to those in need from November to May. It’s seeing a particularly busy season.

The inn is running at maximum capacity, along with Safe Harbour’s other shelter programs.

In total, the society provides shelter, housing, addiction services and support to about 175 Central Albertans each day.

Stacey Carmichael, director of housing and outreach for the society, said the programs have been full, but they have been able to accommodate people.

“We haven’t had to turn people away in the -40C weather,” said Carmichael. “We are busy, but people are being looked after.”

Overall though, this year has seen a drop in numbers from previous years.

People who become homeless appear to be in that situation for a shorter period, Carmichael said.

The Red Deer Youth and Volunteer Centre’s Youth Winter Inn is seeing fewer youths this winter. It accepts teens aged 14 to 17 at the shelter from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. at 4633 49 St.

A couple of teens have stayed there since the weather turned cold.

The shelter was open four years ago.

Program manager Rose Hatfield said the trend is showing that attendance numbers are decreasing since youth seem to be finding houses or other places to stay. She’s not sure if they are all appropriate places for them.

Hatfield said they’ve seen about 15 individuals come through the doors since the end of October. The shelter closes April 30.

Warmer weather is forecast, starting Thursday with a high of -6C expected.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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