Since 2007 the Safe Harbour Society has operated the Winter Inn as a temporary shelter program during the colder months.
This year, however, will be different. Due to changes in funding direction and local zoning requirements in the downtown core of Red Deer, the Winter Inn will not open its doors this coming winter.
Kath Hoffman, executive director of Safe Harbour Society, said they are working on alternatives to help alleviate the stresses of not running the Winter Inn, but that nothing specific is in place at this date.
She said it is disappointing to not be able to operate the Winter Inn this year due to its great success and usefulness in the community in the years that it did run.
“The operation of Winter Inn from November to April guaranteed that the community of Red Deer had enough shelter spaces for those who needed them during the winter months,” said Hoffman.
Last year the shelter welcomed 326 different people to the Winter Inn program from November 2012 to April 2013.
As it stands, Safe Harbour continues to maintain its 23 beds for sober guests at People’s Place and another 20 beds at the Mats Program to accommodate those under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The current provincial direction is addressing homelessness and is driven to move people to more permanent housing rather than shelters.
While Safe Harbour Society recognizes that permanent housing is key, they also know that shelter programs will always be necessary to serve people in emergency situations and keep them safe in the interim.
“We often describe our shelters as ‘in the meantime’ services. We know that we will always need spaces for people as they wait for the appropriate resources they so desperately need.”
Safe Harbour Society has been and said they will continue to work with the City to develop plans to increase the number of beds as well as diverting people from shelters towards more appropriate options including the ultimate goal of permanent housing.
“We understand that funding will not be available through the Community Housing Advisory Board, for Winter Inn. Zoning in the downtown is now in place which precludes our operating in that area, even in churches as we understand it.”
She said as an alternative plan they are looking at options that might see Safe Harbour in the position of having adequate shelter beds year-round, but it will take time to see this development.
Hoffman acknowledges that there are concerns regarding whether all people needing emergency shelter will be served, but said that Safe Harbour Society is firmly committed to doing the very best they can with the beds and resources they have available.