Safe Harbour adds beds to Mat program, People’s Place

Six more spaces at Safe Harbour’s Mat program were available Tuesday night to give homeless who are intoxicated or high a safe and warm place to sleep as temperatures start dropping.

Six more spaces at Safe Harbour’s Mat program were available Tuesday night to give homeless who are intoxicated or high a safe and warm place to sleep as temperatures start dropping.

On Monday Red Deer city council gave its approval to increase mat spaces to 26 from 20 at the overnight program near the city’s downtown, at 5246 53rd Ave.

Safe Harbour also recently added 12 spaces at People’s Place to increase the number of beds at the shelter to 35 from 23.

“That fits into our long-term strategy of really using our existing resources to their full potential,” said Kath Hoffman, executive director of Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing, on Tuesday.

She said the expansions help deal with the winter need as well as provide more spaces year round.

On Monday night, 17 people used the Mat program and 44 were at People’s Place.

Fire regulations capacity at People’s Place is 46 people. As part of Safe Harbour’s winter emergency response plan, mats can be put on the floor to accommodate an extra 11 people if necessary.

New bunk beds at People’s Place have provided more space for the mats.

Hoffman said often when the weather turns nasty people are more likely to open their homes to people they know without a place to sleep.

“In the spirit of cold weather, people’s hearts get bigger. Everyone’s a little more empathetic, a little kinder.”

She said lots of people at People’s Place are employed. Others are looking for work or among the transient population.

“Because we’re in the middle, we get a lot of people from Calgary and Edmonton, and we get people from all over the country coming here to work.”

Malinda Dollack, executive director of Berachah Place, said about 50 people currently spend the day at Berachah to stay warm where they can also get a free shower and do their laundry for free.

“As soon as we close, the soup kitchens open for supper. There is generally no time that they need to be outside,” Dollack said.

A hot lunch is available Tuesday to Friday at Berachah, along with snacks and coffee throughout the day.

“A fair number are employed and are low income. They aren’t able to makes ends meet and come in and have lunch and socialize.”

She is pleased with the city’s efforts to find housing for those in need.

“The whole push for permanent housing is really happening. We’ve seen a lot of people get permanent housing recently,” Dollack said.

Supper meals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Loaves and Fishes attract between 150 and 200 people.

“There’s more women and children then we’ve had in the past. That’s very sad,” said Christine Vautour, pastor at Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen.

Dollack said donations of mitts and other winter clothing to Berachah Place would be greatly appreciated.

Berachah Place, located at 4611 50th Ave., is operated by Balmoral Bible Chapel.

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