Melissa Gauvreau, shift lead at the Warming Centre, cleans tables at the centre in preparation for Wednesday’s opening. (Photo by Susan Zielinski/Advocate staff)

Safe Harbour helps people escape the cold

Red Deer agency providing the first step in addictions treatment

Safe Harbour Society’s Warming Centre has seen an average of 60 people needing somewhere to go during the day as temperatures remain dangerously cold.

The seasonal centre operates daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in two shipping containers at 5256 53rd Ave. in Safe Harbour’s parking lot. Since earlier this month the centre has also been able to reopen at 8 p.m. to add 20 more spaces to the society’s mat program so more people who are intoxicated or high have a place to sleep this winter.

Executive director Kath Hoffman said so far the centre has only needed to be open overnight a few times.

“We’ve got lots of room for anyone who needs it. Typically numbers go down a little bit when it’s this cold. That’s usually the result of people letting people stay in their homes longer because it’s so cold. Also with Christmas our numbers go down,” Hoffman said.

She said providing an escape from the cold is part of the continuum of care for those with addictions.

“Everybody talks about the need for treatment but they don’t see that these emergency services are part of that treatment scope. These are just those critical first steps.

“Just like safe consumption sites, it’s like an emergency treatment response. It’s connecting them to those health resources.”

She said the public may not see it at treatment, but for those suffering from addiction, in their world, it is treatment.

Hoffman said staff are seeing a lot of new faces.

“That’s the result of the opioid crisis we’re in. The majority of the people that are new are on average between 25 and 35 years old. They’re not necessarily new to Red Deer, they’re new to the harbour.”

If people want to help, donations of gloves would be appreciated. Gloves are preferred to bulky mitts so people don’t have to take them off when they need to use their hands outside. Snacks that can be eaten on the go would also be welcome, she said.

“We’re desperate for gloves. We’ve got lots of everything else, but we need gloves.”

Donations can be dropped off at Safe Harbour’s main office between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.

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