Safe Harbour to the rescue

To the Central Alberta Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing, for coming to the aid of the local homeless as it suffers through the flu and H1N1 crisis.

To the Central Alberta Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing, for coming to the aid of the local homeless as it suffers through the flu and H1N1 crisis.

Three weeks ago, Safe Harbour started to see a marked increase in the flu among the homeless in Red Deer. It’s curious the provincial government lacked insight to put Alberta’s homeless in the high-risk category. It would only make sense: Many are malnourished and forced to live outdoors in small camps, in less than hygienic circumstances, which makes them prime targets for illnesses.

Thanks to the insight of Safe Harbour, an emergency shelter was quickly set up in an empty building donated by the city.

It opened its doors Friday to care for what workers called an alarming number of homeless suffering from the flu.

Before the shelter was established, Safe Harbour was averaging about 12 to 13 people a night displaying some flu symptoms.

“Some have been hospitalized,” said Colleen Markus, director of programs with Safe Harbour, which operates an overnight program for many people with addictions.

“We are the home for so many folk, we realized very quickly that Safe Harbour alone could not handle the numbers and health care they would need.”

Markus expected 10 to 15 beds in the emergency shelter at 5581 45th St. would be occupied almost immediately.

On Thursday, 25 cots were set up in the building. Cartons of bottled water were ready and city maintenance, cleaning and technical staff prepared the building. Other community agencies also helped out.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling has frequently emphasized that Red Deer is quick to come to the aid of the needy. In this instance, he said the needs of the homeless have “fallen into that crack between Alberta Health Services and the municipalities.

“Red Deer has seen a need and stepped in.”

In recognition of the innocent victims of war as Remembrance Day nears.

Millions of civilians have been killed as the hellish shockwave of the wars of the last 100 years. Hell is supposed to be the ultimate condemnation of evil, but in war it is often the innocent who perish, caught in the crossfire.

We can only ask why. No good answers come to mind.

In war the rules are different. Along with the deaths of thousands of brave men and women in uniform are the deaths of countless more civilians. Some conflicts have claimed millions of lives among civilians, often in a targeted fashion.

This year, we should remember those forced to live on the bomb-shattered streets of these horrific confrontations. They are the weeping forgotten ones; the ones gently cradling the bodies of their bloodied, mangled children in their arms, praying for help. Often, the pile of rubble that was once their home is now the grave of family members.

Today they are in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere. They live minute-by-minute in terror as bullets whiz by and bombs explode around them with an earth-shaking power that turns their villages into rubble and massive graves.

They are victims in busy market places, their bodies torn apart when powerful car bombs level buildings and spray deadly shrapnel into the crowds.

They are the ones gathered at their holy places of worship when a suicide bomber innocently kneels and bows among them before unleashing yet another catastrophe. Before, they were the victims of the Holocaust and other ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the last 100 years.

Children, women, men killed. Others lost their livelihoods and families.

It is incomprehensible that such a slaughter should continue to occur in the modern world.

But, sadly, such uncaring loss of life continues in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, where a festering wound of hatred and lack of compassion continues to spread.

It will take a long time and commitment, but we must keep the faith — in memory of those lost innocent souls.

Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.

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