Donations especially critical to Safe Harbour in winter

Safe Harbour Society provides an important service to many Red Deerians who otherwise wouldn’t have a safe place to be or a way out of addictions problems.

Executive Director Kath Hoffman said the best way to describe Safe Harbour and their programs is as a non-profit organization serving the community’s most vulnerable members including the homeless.

“Primarily we provide detox opportunities and housing and outreach programs as well as aboriginal supports,” said Hoffman.

The detoxification facility has 20 beds and Hoffman said there is always a waiting list for this service as it can be a vital step towards a healthy lifestyle for many people. Safe Harbour also has an outreach team that helps people find housing opportunities. They also have sharing circles and an elder on staff for aboriginal Red Deerians seeking help from the programs.

The last year has been a busy one for Safe Harbour as they continued to run their programs while working on business plans, policies and procedures and making sure that the foundation of the organization is solid.

“Donations are down this year, which we started to see last year as well, and we are feeling it right now with the winter season upon us.”

Safe Harbour has an ongoing wish list and Hoffman said that she is hoping to see the community come through as it has in the past. “We were born out of a community need and serve that community still,” said Hoffman.

Safe Harbour fundraising efforts are very different from some other organizations in that they are not banquets or galas but rather educational events where audience members walk away having learned something about their community.

“We’ve brought doctors in to educate the community on the different way of thinking about addictions and recognizing it as the chronic illness that it is.”

Hoffman said the importance of gearing their fundraisers this way is that they not only bring in funds for the programs but also help reduce the stigma of addictions.

Recently, Safe Harbour saw a donation of bottle money raised by a group of kindergarten children who also brought in socks and gloves, which Hoffman said are desperately needed at this time of year. “Children always want to help the homeless. Years ago when Alberta put out the prosperity cheques we had one little six-year-old girl donate the entire thing to us; she said she liked the sound of our name.”

Safe Harbour has been around in one shape or form since 2003 when they started out with just an overnight shelter. “We then went through the community process of establishing a detox centre and in 2007 moved to our current building to provide detoxification here.”

Hoffman said detoxification is just a drop in the bucket compared to the realm of services they provide at Safe Harbour.

“These services are really based on a continuum where we start out with a detox program and then continue on through housing and community support.”

Hoffman said there is no gauge for success at Safe Harbour as each person’s results are different from another. “Our success is when a person feels welcome here and is able to identify some of the goals that they want to reach. Success might be as simple as a person who woke up on the mat and decided they wanted to get into detox.”

Hoffman said one of the most important things that the community can do to help is simply to smile at strangers on the streets.

“If you make eye contact with them whether they’re homeless or not the results and the ripple effect are endless. That’s community and that’s us all being there for each other. It’s what Safe Harbour is all about.”

For more information, visit www.safeharboursociety.org.

kpalardy@reddeerexpress.com

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