EDMONTON – With the cold weather settling in, Edmonton’s social support services are feeling the pressure.
“I’ve been here since it opened,” Ernie St. Jean said outside Boyle Street Community Services, explaining how he’s been a long term client of the agency.
St. Jean described how he’s recently seen a lot of new faces.
“This year, we’re the only funded agency for the winter emergency response program,” explained Shannon Hebden with Boyle Street.
During the summer months, the building is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. But during the winter, the hours are extended from 6 a.m. when the overnight shelters close to 9 p.m. when the overnight shelters start taking people in again.
“We are seeing a lot of new faces than usual,” said Hebden.
The winter program is believed to be one factor why Boyle Street is busier this season. The slower economy is another. Numbers are up 30 to 40 per cent compared to last year.
“We don’t have necessarily the space in our drop in,” said Hebden. “So we’re trying to open up other areas in our building during our winter emergency hours.”
“In the winter, people are more eager to get inside,” added Paul Thorne of The Mustard Seed.
Several blocks away from Boyle Street, The Mustard Seed offers a coffee drop in that starts at 3 p.m. followed by a dinner.
“Our numbers are generally between 250 to 300 people on average,” Thorne told Global News. “But over the last couple of weeks we have been just around 300 and up.”
Thorne also points to the food hamper area in the basement of the agency’s building, where demand for the service has also increased.
With winter is full swing, both organizations put the call out for seasonal basics to help their clients; items such as gloves and coats.
“We’ve been able to get by in the past,” Hebden said. “This year we’re just barley making it happen for people.”
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