Safe Harbour Society director of programs Stacey Carmichael Winter Inn shelter staff Tim McNeil are preparing for start of the program. Adults needing a place to sleep during the program can find shelter at Loaves and Fishes above the Peoples Place shelter.

Winter shelters taxed by early demand

The early onset of colder weather has some winter shelter programs in Red Deer already at capacity.

By Susan Zielinski

and Laura Tester

Advocate staff

The early onset of colder weather has some winter shelter programs in Red Deer already at capacity.

Kath Hoffman, director of programs for the Safe Harbour Society, said that the Winter Inn program will start on Thursday.

“We have changed it up a bit because it used to be at different churches,” said Hoffman.

This year, it will run at Loaves and Fishes every day from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., at 6002 54th Ave.

This shelter’s purpose is to ensure Red Deer has the capacity in the cold winter months and that no one is turned away.

The program is a partnership between Safe Harbour Society and the downtown faith community, with Safe Harbour providing the staffing and the churches providing the space.

Winter Inn takes the overflow from the mats program as well as People’s Place, which is also located at Loaves and Fishes. Winter Inn will run upstairs and allows people who may be under the influence of substances.

Up to 30 people can stay at a time.

Safe Harbour also runs the mats overnight shelter for 20 adults who are under the influence. It runs at 5246 53rd Ave. and operates from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., 365 days a year.

People’s Place, an emergency shelter for 23 adults, is for those who have no other means available to them. They are in the process of connecting back to the community.

They are ready for an element of stability in their lives and are building their resources to that end. It’s also located at 6002 54th Ave. and runs from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. year-round.

Those clients cannot be under the influence. They can stay at the emergency shelter for up to 30 days.

Hoffman said the most people they had to turn away from the People’s Place and the mats program in October was 17.

That means that both places were full, she added.

People are turned away, but not without staff trying to find the best options for them, Hoffman said.

Youth Winter Inn opened for its fourth season on Friday but the seven mats available for homeless youth, age 14 to 17 who are intoxicated on drugs or alcohol, remained empty.

“It was quiet on the weekend but with the resource being there, I’m sure we see kids within the next week or two,” said Rose Hatfield, program manager at the Red Deer Youth and Volunteer Centre.

There’s always a slow start to the program because it takes time for youth to realize it’s open and the homeless do tend to stay hidden until winter arrives, she said.

Youth Winter Inn provides a safe and warm place for youth who are homeless or in crisis during the winter months.

Funding from the City of Red Deer and Central Alberta Child and Family Services Authority will allow the program to run until April 30.

“Last year we only had until March 31, so that’s good.”

A delay in funding prevented the Youth Winter Inn from opening until Dec. 15 last year.

Youth Winter Inn is open Monday to Friday from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and on the weekend from 9 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.

To be admitted, youth should ring the doorbell at the centre’s rear after-hours door at 4633 49th St. and press the intercom to speak to staff.

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