Drop-in shelter for homeless closing

Just as colder weather approaches, the only day drop-in shelter for the homeless and other street people in Red Deer has had to close its doors.

Just as colder weather approaches, the only day drop-in shelter for the homeless and other street people in Red Deer has had to close its doors.

Berachah Place, operated by a local business, shut down on Friday. When the shelter first opened, in 2005, a local church funded it. A few years ago, that ended.

Justin Hubert, who was involved from the beginning with Berachah Place, said Tuesday that his family business, Heritage Family Services, stepped in to continue the operation, out of good will.

The shelter operated in the basement of the Central Alberta Aids Network Society (4611 Gaetz Ave.), which rents the building from a company owned by the Hubert family. No rent was being charged for the Berachah Place program.

The facility provided a place for people to get warm, do laundry, shower, store belongings and have a snack.

“I absolutely believe it’s necessary. I absolutely wish I could keep doing it. I can’t. We don’t have the funding,” Hubert said.

“Our whole community needs to be on board because when one person tries to run one day shelter by themselves in Red Deer, it doesn’t work.”

One of the problems was continual staff changeovers, people Hubert described as “all great people”.

It also became apparent that for safety, they needed two staff.

This, combined with the fact they were getting nowhere with obtaining other funding, spelled the end, he said.

“Basically we just had one too many challenges,” said Hubert.

The hope was that Berachah Place could become a nonprofit operation, so they could obtain funding, and fundraise, he said.

Berachah Place first ran seven days a week — in the end, this summer it was down to three days a week.

He said he felt “horrible” about having to shut it down.

For the next little while Hubert said he is going to figure out when to set up times for homeless people to come and get things they have stored there. There are no plans for the vacant space, he said.

A lot of life for homeless people in Red Deer is spent just surviving in the elements, Hubert said, noting he’s seen the camps under bridges and in trees. In the day, like at night, it can be -40C as well, he said.

“We need a group of people … that can come around to the day shelter need that Red Deer has and engage the community of Red Deer on that. That’s what we need.”

There are night shelter programs in Red Deer for people in need.

Jennifer Vanderschaeghe, executive director of CAANS, said since Friday they are already seeing an impact of the closure of Berachah Place, such as traffic patterns at her office.

Berachah Place offered lunches (provided by outside groups with the proper cooking facilities). For the most part, soup kitchens and churches are focused on providing food at breakfast and supper, she said.

“The tricky part is you are out walking around all day. You can imagine how tiring that is. But also there’s a lot of people who really don’t want you to loiter around,” Vanderschaeghe said.

“It’s just a matter of time until it snows.”

barr@bprda.wpengine.com

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