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City of Edmonton to close emergency overnight shelter at Commonwealth in 3 days

Most Edmonton shelters full overnight at cold snap hits
WATCH: (Jan. 10) With the cold snap settled in Edmonton, work continues to ensure the most vulnerable are not left exposed to elements. As Vinesh Pratap reports, most shelters were full overnight.

The City of Edmonton said it plans to close the temporary overnight shelter space at Commonwealth field house on Monday, Jan. 20.

The facility — which can accommodate nearly 40 individuals — was opened last Thursday as an additional resource during the extreme cold weather.

With winter temperatures expected to improve next week, the centre will be closed after 7 a.m. Monday.

“Over the seven nights we’ve been open so far, we have welcomed around 615 Edmontonians who needed a warm, safe place to sleep during extreme weather conditions,” said Christel Kjenner, the city’s director of housing and homelessness.

On the average night, the Commonwealth shelter had about 90 people sleep there. The number peaked on Jan. 13, when 121 people stayed overnight. The city updated the numbers on Monday, saying the Commonwealth overnight shelter saw more than 1,070 visits over the 11 nights.

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“We were able to accommodate couples who wished to stay together, those with personal belongings and pets, and provided access to basics such as showers and washroom facilities.”

READ MORE: Extreme cold prompts Edmonton to open Commonwealth rec centre as shelter

The decision to add the extra shelter was made when Edmonton’s Winter Emergency Response protocol was activated by city officials and Homeward Trust.

The beds at the field house accommodate people with disabilities, pets, women, youth and others who might experience challenges accessing traditional shelters. Storage boxes are provided for people to keep their belongings at the shelter. The space is monitored, managed and patrolled by peace officers to ensure it is safe and welcoming to those in need, the city said.

Space was made available between 10 p.m and 7 a.m. and additional transportation was added to ensure people who needed to use the shelter could access it easily.

City of Edmonton lays out plans to help vulnerable citizens during cold snap
City of Edmonton lays out plans to help vulnerable citizens during cold snap

The city said Thursday the dedicated ETS bus taking people from shelters, drop-ins and some transit stations would also be discontinued Monday after the last stop at Hope Mission at around 7: 30 a.m.

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The Boyle Street Winter Warming Bus will continue to provide food, winter clothing, blankets and transportation to warming centres and shelters.

READ MORE: How Commonwealth is being used to shelter Edmontonians during extreme cold

However, the space at Commonwealth was only ever meant to be a temporary resource.

Kjenner said last Thursday that officials would give three days’ notice before closing the space.

READ MORE: What to do if you see someone sleeping in the cold in Edmonton

The city and community partners will continue to closely monitor weather forecasts and existing shelter capacity over the coming days to see if there’s a need to re-open the Commonwealth shelter space.

“Our thanks go out to all city staff and community partners who came together during this time of urgent need to ensure those experiencing homelessness had another option for a safe and warm place to sleep during this extremely cold weather,” Kjenner said.

For a list of Edmonton shelters, drop-in centres and needed donations, click here.

WATCH: These prolonged cold temperatures are taking a toll on pretty much everyone and everything in Edmonton. Fletcher Kent looks at the fallout from the frosty week.

Day 5 of deep freeze in Edmonton
Day 5 of deep freeze in Edmonton