When the weather turns cold and people are forced indoors Red Deer organizations do their best to keep the homeless safe and warm.
Included in these organizations is the Youth Winter Inn, which focuses on keeping youth who are homeless, at risk or involved in drugs and alcohol off the streets when temperatures dip below zero.
The Youth Winter Inn aims to help people ages 14-17 and provides a basic emergency shelter.
“The majority of the kids that we see are the ones that have some addiction issues,” said Rose Hatfield with the Youth and Volunteer Centre of Red Deer.
This is the third year that the program has run and they opened their doors Dec. 15th to begin helping those youth off the streets.
The shelter doesn’t just house the youth temporarily and then let them back out without help. They provide referrals and support through a support worker to the youth to try to get them on their feet again.
“We try to refer them to other resources and give them the extra support to help them follow through. We can’t force them to go anywhere but we can support them when they’re ready,” said Hatfield.
The Youth Winter Inn has helped 88 youth to date with a safe and warm housing option during the winter.
Hatfield said this year has been off to a slow start in part because of the good weather the City has seen but also because funding came through later than usual for the shelter.
The Youth Winter Inn also tries to provide the youth with a snack like juice or a hot soup or granola bars but Hatfield said they can only provide what they have available. “We can always use donations including socks and mittens and winter coats. Juice and non-perishable food items are good too.”
Hatfield said the youth the shelter sees are very appreciative of anything they can get because they usually only have what is on their backs.
“Red Deer as a community over the last couple of years has really become more aware of youth homelessness being an issue.”
Hatfield said the community’s acceptance and better understanding of the issues surrounding youth homelessness have been a huge help in garnering funding for the year as well as finding a solution.
“People now want to be part of the solution. It’s not something you want to push under the rug anymore because we really do have kids out there looking for help. The Youth Winter Inn came about to give these kids a safe choice.”
The Youth Winter Inn is located at 4633 49th St. at the Red Deer Youth and Volunteer Centre’s back entrance. They are available to youth from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven days a week until March 31st.