Housing crisis feared

Red Deer’s daytime warming centre for the homeless is attracting 65 people a day on average.

Red Deer’s daytime warming centre for the homeless is attracting 65 people a day on average.

“It is a lot of people. The most we’ve seen in any one day is just over 80, but 65 is the average. That’s all adults, most of whom identify being from Red Deer. Eighty per cent are men,” said Stacey Carmichael, director of programs with Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing, on Wednesday.

The warming centre, located at Seventh-day Adventist Centre at 5014 49th St., opened in November and will operate until April 30.

Carmichael said the response to the warming centre clearly shows the city needs more housing options, like apartments, basement suites and other affordable housing solutions for the hardest to house, those who are chronically and episodically homeless.

“It says to me we have a housing crisis in our community. That’s the biggest thing. We are making good strides with our plans to end homelessness. We have excellent programs in place. The missing component in all of that, in my opinion, is housing options.”

The warming centre was developed to fill the service gap after Berachah Place closed its doors in October.

In addition to the warming centre, Safe Harbour extended its day support program for those with physical and mental disabilities, illnesses and those under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The city is funding both winter programs and Safe Harbour provides the staff.

Carmichael said on average 11 to 13 people daily are mostly using the day support program to rest.

“There’s limited ability for these guys to do that so the common cold or flu might take longer to go away, or might develop into pneumonia more quickly than you or I.

“The guys are very grateful. It’s nice to have that option in our community right now.”

She said they also appreciate the support and non-judgment at the warming centre. Staff can connect them with local services and that has helped some people get off the streets or access programs.

“Lots of success stories have come out of that client group. We just need more housing, then we can do more.”

Both the warming centre and the expanded day support are temporary.

“The community is still having conversations about this type of service and what it needs to look like on a permanent type of basis rather than just a winter Band-Aid solution,” Carmichael said.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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