Last winter, a bout of extreme cold saw hundreds of vulnerable people use a temporary 24-hour warming centre run by Streets Alive Mission after the city approached the group with the short-term solution.
A less-than-ideal location combined with a break-in the cold snap saw the centre suspended in early January.
When the cold returned, warming was provided in the form of buses.
Ken Kissick, co-founder of Streets Alive Mission, said the buses were a bit of an awkward transition but shared that with transit support, no one died of an overdose or froze to death.
“The reason buses were used was because we could put them on the street, and they didn’t require permitting, but for us, it was a way to keep people warm and safe,” said Kissick.
Heading into this winter, the city is looking to take proactive measures to avoid a similar scramble.
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Andrew Malcom, the city’s urban revitalization manager, said that there are steps in the process.
“We’re in conversations with our existing shelter providers as well as the Government of Alberta to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” explained Malcom.
At Thursday’s cultural and social standing policy committee (SPC) meeting, Malcom brought forward a request to approve up to $230,000 of Federal Reaching Home funding to be utilized for a 24-hour drop-in centre over the winter months, until March 31, 2024.
Malcom says the situation remains extremely dynamic as they’re still in the process of finding a suitable location and contractor to work with.
“So, it is a little bit different as when you typically do see a funding request like the FCSS (Family and Community Support Services) one (when) we have already identified who’s going to receive (it) and where. And so we are asking for this funding allocation without all the details, knowing that we are actively in those conversations and putting those together.”
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Ultimately, the SPC unanimously approved the recommendation to go before council on Oct. 31 for potential endorsement, at which time more details should be provided.
“You know there was and remains a lack of actual shelter beds and so going into this season the city is working on a different plan this year and hopefully it will meet the needs,” shared Kissick.
While Streets Alive won’t be offering a 24-hour warming centre out of its location, Kissick said it will move forward with the city to help in any way it can.
“We will continue to do a form of outreach,” Kissick added. “We are planning to continue to provide the services through the winter months that we have for the last 30 years.”
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