City council approves funding for overnight shelter spaces

  • Sep. 16, 2015 3:29 p.m.

More overnight shelter spaces will be made available at People’s Place this winter after City council approved additional funding.

Council gave the green light to fund $45,427 which will allow Safe Harbour Society to add an extra 11 shelter spaces to the existing 35 beds. The funds will cover a full-time staff position 12 hours a day/night, seven days a week from Nov. 1st to April 30th.

Funding for this overnight component of the Winter Emergency Response is available through the province’s Outreach and Support Services grant administered by the City.

“This will help with our need,” said Kath Hoffman, executive director of Safe Harbour Society.

Last month, City council turned down an application for a temporary daytime warming centre to open at 4934 – 54th Ave. for the next two winters – something that is much needed in the community. Hoffman said she is hopeful another location can be approved soon.

“The need for the warming centre is primarily because we don’t have day shelter in this City. That warming centre through those winter months enables us to get people in from the cold,” said Hoffman. “Of course we know we need that and we know that everybody in this community knows we need that – that’s never a question. Certainly every councillor knows we need that and agrees that we need that. This is a short-term solution to a long-term need and Safe Harbour is dedicated to working on that long-term need. I think in the complexity of finding us a location, we struggle.

“Although we were disappointed that first location was not accepted by council, we have been working really hard with the City to explore other options.”

Hoffman said she hopes the community can overcome the stigma that sometimes comes along with homelessness.

“It is a reality and we understand it. At Safe Harbour we try and do our best to help the problem. We can’t eliminate the problem but we try and help. I think that is where sometimes people get stuck – they see here comes Safe Harbour and maybe they are going to bring problems with them but they fail to see sometimes that the problem is already there – we challenge them to think beyond the problem to realize that we may be able to help. I totally understand when businesses have these issues on the doorstep – to think past that to here is a program and staff that can help – that is what we have to try and show them when we come and we work hard to do that.”

Meanwhile, City council also approved additional funding in the amount of $125,000 to extend the Youth Housing First program which is operated by McMan Central for a period of 10 months from Sept. 8th to June 30th of next year.

The funding will come from the Outreach and Support Services Initiative grant.

The Youth Housing First program is a pilot program for homeless youth between the ages of 16-24. The duration of the pilot project originally approved by council was for the time period of Sept. 8th, 2014 to Sept. 7th, 2015.

The project at the time of evaluation had housed six youth through the program – five males and one female. Clients’ housing situation immediately prior to intake were characterized by significant histories of housing instabilities. Officials have said one client indicated to living on the streets since they were 13-years-old.

The six youth are being housed in two homes being leased by McMan Central. Each home has a live-in mentor and all the clients are connected to an outreach worker.

Red Deer City council approved the funding to extend the pilot project.