It’s the first lengthy test of Saskatchewan’s cold weather strategy this winter.
Extreme cold settled into the province Monday, with daytime temperatures expected to remain below -20 C in Regina for a few days more.
“Under the cold weather strategy, we want everyone to have a bed and a safe warm place to be – that’s our goal,” said Jan Thorson, acting executive director for Mobile Crisis Services.
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Between Jan. 10-13, Mobile Crisis Services helped co-ordinate emergency shelter for 56 individuals.
The organization provides a list of all available shelter spaces on its website, however, co-ordinated services are offered following an individual assessment.
“We try and make the best referral we can. Whether that be to one of the shelters, to family and friends,” Thorson said.
Mobile Crisis Services is just one link in the city’s cold weather strategy. Drop-in centres like Carmicheal Outreach, open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., accommodate people during daytime hours.
“We provide coffee and tea in our coffee room pretty much all day long, and we just visit with people, make sure that they’re comfortable and have somewhere to go during the day to stay warm,” said Cora Sellers, Carmichael’s executive director.
Sellers said the centre’s clothing room is running low on winter gear and is asking for donations such as jackets, snow pants, mitts, toques and gloves.
Shelter demand at Waterston Centre on the decline
Major Wayne McDonough, the executive director for The Salvation Army‘s all-male Waterston Centre, said demand for shelter space has been on the decline the last several years.
“We’ve had some nights that we’ve been at capacity, but we haven’t had to turn anyone away,” McDonough said.
Three years ago, the shelter had 56 beds. Now, it’s down to 26 with overflow room for 10 to 12 more.
McDonough said even when demand increases in the extreme cold, they’re still between 75 to 80 per cent capacity.
“Over the last couple of years, with the housing first initiative and different strategies like that, the need for shelter beds has decreased,” he said.
Over the last three years, the facility has moved it’s morning close time from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. In the last six months, bookings were changed to open at 2 p.m. rather than 4:30 p.m.
Anyone needing a place to stay can contact Mobile Crisis Services by phone, at 306-757-0127, or in-person at 1646 11th Avenue.