Eighty-one people sought shelter overnight at Safe Harbour Society’s Cannery Row homeless shelter during Monday’s non-stop rain.
But that shelter will be closed in about five weeks.
“If it would have been Oct. 1 we would have had to turn 55 people away. That’s the reality come Oct. 1,” said executive director Kath Hoffman on Wednesday.
Once the temporary shelter closes on Oct. 1, Safe Harbour will only have space for 26 people to sleep on mats at its main building about a block away.
“We know there is at least 81 people who will be looking for shelter in inclement weather. That’s what (Monday) showed us.”
The shelter regularly has 50 to 60 clients stay overnight, which is also too many for the space in the main building.
The former Cannery Row Bingo was turned into a temporary daytime warming centre and overnight mat program for people facing homelessness who are intoxicated or under the influence when COVID-19 struck in spring 2020.
Hoffman said staff were excited about moving into the larger Cannery Row space because they no longer had to turn people away.
“My staff have to get ready to do that (again).”
She said about 100 people are in and out at the shelter during the day, but there will only be space for a 24/7 sleep program at the main building after the Cannery Row space closes.
City council decided the shelter had to move out after Sept. 30 following complaints about vagrancy and crime in the downtown. A new location has not been found.
In June, council directed administration to seek site purchase options for a temporary shelter. Administration had hoped to bring back options to council late August, however, this work will now come forward in November when administration can provide a detailed update with operational progress.
In preparation for the shelter closure, the city is facilitating a Community Collaboration Table on Sept. 8 where numerous agency stakeholders will come together to discuss potential options to address the gap in shelter services come Oct. 1. The invite list includes the Ministry of Community and Social Services, health officials, service providers such as Safe Harbour Society, RCMP, the Downtown Business Association, Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre as well as several city departments focused on services for affected individuals.
“If we get a fourth wave we’ll have no place to put people,” said Hoffman.
She said RCMP and community outreach staff have also been bringing people to the shelter and they will have to find accommodations for them somewhere else.