Safe Harbour Society’s downtown warming centre, at 5253 53rd Ave., offers those who are homeless a place to get out of the freezing cold during the day.

Warming centre keeping people safe from the cold

53 people at centre on Sunday

Fifty-three people escaped bone-chilling temperatures on Sunday at Safe Harbour’s warming centre.

So far this month between 45 to 67 people stopped in at the centre each day, said Tricia Haggarty-Roberts, operations director with Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing.

“It’s given a warm, safe and legitimate space for homeless folks to go which means they’re not being present in more negative environments, perhaps downtown or wherever else. That’s a good thing,” said Haggarty-Roberts on Monday.

The downtown warming centre located at 5256 53rd Ave., in Safe Harbour’s parking lot, and is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Haggarty-Roberts said so far no deaths have been attributed to the cold.

“There was a gal who got burned by the heaters in her tent. That’s something we’ve heard a few times this season already.”

On Sunday night, 19 out of 26 spaces were used at the mat program available for those who are intoxicated, as well as 33 out of 46 beds at People’s place homeless shelter.

Haggarty-Roberts said the focus right now is to get those who sleep outdoors, or in shelter, into housing.

She said some people have accessed Housing First programs since the warming centre opened for the season on Nov. 1.

But access to housing requires that people be assessed and some find it difficult to open up and trust the system.

“If you’re remotely vulnerable or dealing with trauma issues from the past, (assessment) is going to open up some wounds in you quite probably. And unless you’re going to be picked up by professionals right away and wrapped around in those supports, you’ve now got this wound that you’re hanging onto by yourself and dealing with.”

She said Red Deer doesn’t yet have housing programs to meet the needs of some of its homeless.

The warming centre is currently accepting donations of fresh fruit, granola bars and juice boxes.

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