As Jacob Schlinker was getting into the grey van outside the Alpha House shelter with his partner on Monday, the phone was already ringing.
“DOAP team, how can we help you?” his partner answered.
The Downtown Outreach Addiction Partnership, or DOAP team, is often busy with calls. But since temperatures plummeted across Alberta over the weekend, they’ve been zipping across downtown non-stop.
Schlinker is the outreach team lead.
“Our volume of calls has increased substantially lately. I think we’re taking about 57-65 calls a day,” he said.
The DOAP team’s mandate is to respond to street-level addiction and intoxication in Calgary’s busiest areas.
The program also distributes meals, clothes and shuttles people to and from shelters, treatment centres or appointments.
But when extreme temperatures set in, and the weather becomes dangerous, the DOAP team sees a significant increase in calls for people who need to be helped out of the cold.
“Obviously the cold has been hurting them more and their health can take a hit,” Schlinker said.
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“We’ll take people to medical centres, hospitals, urgent care facilities if they need.”
The city’s homeless shelters have also seen a marked increase in volume since the cold snap set in.
The Mustard Seed said it reached its maximum capacity of 370 over the weekend.
The Alpha House is over-capacity; roughly 140 people have stayed there overnight, when the shelter’s limit is 120. A spokesperson said the shelter would not turn people away.
The Calgary Drop-In Centre recorded a noticeable increase in clients over the weekend as well — about 50 more than the weekend before. But the shelter said it is still about 200 people away from being at its max capacity of 1,000 people.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi took time ahead of Monday’s city council meeting to thank city workers in the roads and transit departments for their response to the cold snap, and said the city was well-positioned to take care of the vulnerable population.
“We are not a community in which anyone should ever freeze to death,” Nenshi said.
“We should be OK. Since the advent of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, we have fewer homeless people. There are still people who are sleeping rough in encampments and so on who I worry a lot about in this kind of weather.”
Nenshi said there are many services available to help the homeless population and singled out the DOAP team for its contribution.
The mayor encouraged people living or working downtown to have the program’s phone number handy in case a situation needs to be reported.
The DOAP team has faced funding uncertainty recently as a result of the last provincial budget. According to Schlinker, DOAP team operations have not been cut back due to funding and the service is still operating 24/7.
He said the program has been receiving donations and fundraising efforts have helped keep them afloat.
Previously, officials with Alpha House – which runs the DOAP team – said the organization needed to raise $250,000 by the end of March 2020 to continue operations at current levels.
To contact the DOAP team, you can call 403-998-7388. To learn how you can help the organization, visit AlphaHouseCalgary.com.