Safe Harbour predicts a busier winter season at its homeless shelters.
Stacey Carmichael, director of programs with Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing, said shelters were full last winter and over the summer.
On Monday, Safe Harbour is requesting $32,427 from city council to accommodate an additional 11 people at People’s Place shelter from Nov. 1 to the end of April as part of its winter emergency response plan.
People’s Place has 35 beds with space for 11 mats on the floor.
“We’ve been turning folks away nightly. I’m not convinced the 11 will be quite enough. But we’ll work with our community partners to try to avoid folks from having to sleep outside,” Carmichael said on Thursday.
As it did last year, Safe Harbour is requesting city funding to hire another worker at People’s Place for the winter.
Safe Harbour’s Mat program also operates with 26 mats for homeless who are intoxicated or high.
Carmichael said a housing bottleneck in Red Deer prevents many of the homeless from finding permanent housing.
“We have people who are ready to move on into housing. They’ve been attached to appropriate programs that can provide them with the support to be successful in housing. They just can’t find housing.”
She said with low vacancy rates and the high cost of rent, Red Deer is not a typical mid-sized community. Its housing challenges are more comparable to large centres like Calgary and Edmonton.
For the most part, the homeless in Red Deer are not a transient population, she said.
“Most of the people we see in our shelters are from Red Deer and Central Alberta.”
And a growing number of those at People’s Place are over age 50 and often come with health issues, Carmichael said.
The Youth Winter Inn, operated by the Red Deer Youth and Volunteer Centre, opens on Nov. 3 and will run until April 30 with seven mats for youth age 14 to 17.
Program manager Rose Hatfield said last winter, 46 teens used the shelter 303 times.
Central Alberta Child and Family Services Authority provided $65,000 to fund the program.
As always, Safe Harbour and the Youth and Volunteer Centre are collecting donations of winter clothing like long underwear, socks, and mitts for clients.
Hatfield said donations of snacks and personal grooming items would also be helpful.
Donations can be dropped off at Safe Harbour at 5246 53rd Ave. or the Youth and Volunteer Centre at 4633 49th St.