Advertisement

Temporary homeless shelters burn to ground in Wetaskiwin

Click to play video '2 temporary homeless shelters set up in Wetaskiwin' 2 temporary homeless shelters set up in Wetaskiwin
Wetaskiwin has put up two temporary shelters - converted livestock shelters - to help with homelessness in the city. But as Quinn Ohler reports, many don't think they go far enough – Sep 17, 2018

Two cattle shelters that were converted into temporary places where vulnerable people in Wetaskiwin, Alta. could escape the elements were destroyed by fire Monday.

The Wetaskiwin Fire Department was called to a burning complaint at about 4:25 p.m.

The fire chief said firefighters saw the flames through the window and were able to respond fairly quickly, however, much of the damage was already done.

Both shelters were destroyed by the time crews arrived on scene. Nobody was in the structures at the time and no injuries were reported, Fire Chief Leigh Sawicki said.

Firefighters are working with the RCMP to determine what may have caused the fire. They’ll also be interviewing people.

Fire destroyed shelters in Wetaskiwin, Alta. on Oct. 1, 2018.
Fire destroyed shelters in Wetaskiwin, Alta. on Oct. 1, 2018. Fletcher Kent, Global News
Fire destroyed shelters in Wetaskiwin, Alta. on Oct. 1, 2018.
Fire destroyed shelters in Wetaskiwin, Alta. on Oct. 1, 2018. Fletcher Kent, Global News
Fire destroyed shelters in Wetaskiwin, Alta. on Oct. 1, 2018.
Fire destroyed shelters in Wetaskiwin, Alta. on Oct. 1, 2018. Fletcher Kent, Global News
Fire destroyed shelters in Wetaskiwin, Alta. on Oct. 1, 2018.
Fire destroyed shelters in Wetaskiwin, Alta. on Oct. 1, 2018. Fletcher Kent, Global News
Fire destroyed shelters in Wetaskiwin, Alta. on Oct. 1, 2018.
Fire destroyed shelters in Wetaskiwin, Alta. on Oct. 1, 2018. Fletcher Kent, Gl

The fire department had received a few burning complaints connected to the converted shelters previously, and the city had recently brought in a burning barrel to address some of the safety concerns.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Livestock shelters used as temporary solution for Wetaskiwin homeless problems

The city repurposed the livestock shelters in hopes of addressing the “long-standing” issue of homelessness, the city manager said.

However, they were never intended to be a permanent solution.

“This is just a stopgap,” manager Dave Burgess told Global News on Sept. 17.

Shelters put up by the City of Wetaskiwin.
Shelters put up by the City of Wetaskiwin. Global News
Tarps have been placed over the openings of one of the shelters put up by the City of Wetaskiwin as a place for vulnerable people to escape the elements.
Tarps have been placed over the openings of one of the shelters put up by the City of Wetaskiwin as a place for vulnerable people to escape the elements. Global News
After rain and snow, the site of a temporary shelter in Wetaskiwin is now covered in mud.
After rain and snow, the site of a temporary shelter in Wetaskiwin is now covered in mud.
Inside one of the shelters put up in Wetaskiwin.
Inside one of the shelters put up in Wetaskiwin. Global News
A view of a shelter put up by the City of Wetaskiwin as a temporary escape from the elements for its homeless population.
A view of a shelter put up by the City of Wetaskiwin as a temporary escape from the elements for its homeless population. Global News

Burgess and a group of city staff came up with the plan to use the livestock shelters, which the city already had and was previously using at outdoor skating rinks.

Story continues below advertisement

They were located in an open field away from businesses and private property.

After five weeks in use, the site was covered in mud, blankets and garbage.

One man, who is a resident of the area and uses the site, didn’t want to be identified but said the site has been used as a place to gather and drink. He added many people using the shelters aren’t homeless.

With files from Global’s Fletcher Kent and Quinn Ohler