Safe Harbour Society recently moved its daytime warming centre and overnight mat program for homeless adults to the former Cannery Row Bingo. (Photo contributed)

Safe Harbour Society recently moved its daytime warming centre and overnight mat program for homeless adults to the former Cannery Row Bingo. (Photo contributed)

Safe Harbour Society more ready than ever for winter shelter rush

Move to former Cannery Row Bingo building means more shelter spaces available than ever before

The sudden cold snap has not yet led to a spike in the number seeking a warm place to sleep through the Safe Harbour Society.

But for the first time in years, the society has few worries that it will have to turn anyone away, should there be a sudden rush for shelter, said executive director Kath Hoffman.

The necessity, because of COVID-19 health restrictions, of setting up a new shelter in the large space once home to Cannery Row Bingo means there is now more than enough places for people to sleep.

“For the first time in many, many years, we’re breathing a sigh of relief, because since we’ve been in the Cannery Row building, we have tons of space,” said Hoffman.

“So, space for the first time in Red Deer is not an issue as far as our shelter services are concerned.

“It’s really great. That’s something we held our breath about every day. We were just hoping that we could shelter everybody who needed it. Now, we definitely can.

“We’re grateful for the space. There’s nothing worse than turning someone away.”

About 80 spaces are available in the former bingo hall at 5239 53rd Ave., and there is room to double that if need be.

Despite the sudden blast of winter, there has not been a big influx of people seeking shelter. About 50 to 60 people spend the night at the facility, a number that has been relatively consistent.

“Last night, we were at 53, so there hasn’t been a big increase — yet. But we’re ready.”

Besides having additional space for sleeping, Cannery Row also offers far more washrooms, which is another big plus.

As welcome as it has been, the Cannery Row location remains a temporary measure.

“We still have to have a long-term solution, but, boy, we’re grateful for it this winter.”

The biggest challenge has been staffing. Many of those who help out at the shelter are young mothers, and COVID-19 quarantines mean some have had to stay home with their children and are not available to work at the shelter.

Safe Harbour Society

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