New cold weather shelter opens in P.A.
The YWCA’s new cold weather shelter is now open. Developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stepping Stones Shelter – at the grandstand at the Prince Albert Exhibition grounds – has twice as many beds as the previous winter shelter located in the basement of Our House downtown. It also features a more comfortable and welcoming environment, extended hours, more staff, and a direct connection with the YWCA’s Homeward Bound program to allow interested people to quickly get into temporary or permanent housing.
Rob Dunlop, manager of Homeward Bound, told paNOW the primary focus of the previous cold weather shelter was to prevent people from freezing to death – a tragedy that occurred four times during the winter before it opened. The new expanded location has additional broader goals.
“I see it very much as a gateway into permanent housing for a lot of the people that are out on the street right now,” he said, speaking on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of the shelters’ opening night.The causes of homelessness are numerous, explained Dunlop, but trauma is at the root of almost all of them and providing housing first is the key.
“Drug addiction, mental health issues, alcoholism – those are just symptoms of something else and it’s getting to the something else that you can’t do when you’re living out on the street,” he continued. “And so this [shelter] will be an introduction to help, basically… the hand is out, if they want to take it, it’s here.”
City council approved the development permit for the new cold weather shelter in mid-October. The three weeks since has seen a flurry of renovations at the grandstand building.
Aside from being roughly four times the size of the basement at Our House, Stepping Stones Shelter boasts a spacious kitchen, from which Prince Albert Grand Council will cook nightly hot, nutritious meals and a physically-distanced dining room. Showers have been installed in the bathrooms. There are also laundry facilities.The shelter will be closed for six hours a day for cleaning and everyone entering will have their temperature checked and be asked questions to screen for COVID-19.
Most of the funding for the new cold weather shelter comes from a federal pot of money for homelessness, which was topped up this year in response to COVID-19.
While the shelter is currently set to operate until April 30, 2021, funding pending, the YWCA plans to continue it next winter. Dunlop said he’d like to see it as a 24-hour space where people can stay temporarily while they get connected to services.
For now, staff are focused on putting the finishing touches on renovations and welcoming their first clients.
“It’s pretty exciting to know that we’re part of something that’s new and has the potential to change lives,” Dunlop said.
Published on: November 5, 2020
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