As of Monday night, there were still more than 100 spaces for people to stay at the Calgary Drop-In Centre to escape the extremely cold temperatures. But some unhoused Calgarians distrust the existing shelter system or don’t want to be split up from a partner or pet.
“We need actual indoor warming centers. We need tents set up that have a heater in them. Those are the sort of things we need. We need places where homeless people can be safe and not judged,” said Nigel Kirk, a member of the Client Action Committee.
Warming centres have been proposed by some homeless advocates like Kirk but they are not a long term solution according to agencies providing overnight shelter.
“We don’t believe a warming centre goes far enough. Everything we do must be focused on that end result of getting people housed,” said Calgary Drop-In Centre executive director Sandra Clarkson.
In mid-December, Clarkson said the Drop-In Centre opened the Bridge Program funded through provincial money. A low barrier space with a capacity for 40 people to warm up, get clothes and food and start building relationships with shelter staff.
“As word of mouth continues to build and the signage is created more people will come and I’m happy to say we have housed one person directly from the program to their own home already,” Clarkson said.
“That’s the goal ultimately — to help people end their experience of homelessness.
“Meeting their immediate needs in the moment is of course important but it’s not enough.”
Clarkson said they are planning to have it open seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Earlier this month, Calgary city council approved $750,000 in funding for the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) to co-ordinate a community cold weather response.
The funding will go towards increasing easy-to-access spaces that provide warmth and basic needs along with addressing the barriers that keep some Calgarians experiencing homelessness from accessing shelters.
Some money has already gone towards expanding the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership, commonly referred to as the DOAP Team, according to the CHF.
“Calgary Homeless Foundation will have an application process that starts in January where people can apply but we haven’t waited. The DOAP team has already expanded its services,” said CHF president and CEO Patricia Jones.
“I think the DOAP team are some of our unsung heroes in our community.
“They have teams that go out to folks who are rough sleeping and they have partnerships with the police and bylaw services.”
Jones added she has already started talking to organizations that are interested in providing warming sites.
“We are also talking to them about working together and collaborating even more than they already do so that not only do we provide people with warmth but with access to services,” Jones said.
|City of Calgary (@cityofcalgary)|
|2021-12-27, 3:04 PM|
During this extreme cold, The City’s Animal Services Centre will accept the pets of unhoused owners in need for up to 30 days. The shelter is open and has capacity. For hours, visit Calgary.ca/pets