Homeless shelter announced for winter

The City of Calgary and the Mustard Seed teamed up and announced a new shelter project to be built in the Foothills industrial park Tue., Jul. 17.

The shelter, which will be located in a warehouse at 7025 44th St. S.E., was approved for renovations to prepare for the upcoming winter, when the weather can prove deadly for the city’s homeless.

Last year, the empty 16th Ave. Brick building was converted into a temporary emergency shelter, accommodating 300 during particularly cold parts of the winter season. With that location demolished for road widening, a new shelter was needed to address the needs of a growing number of homeless Calgarians. The new shelter was designed for 460 and the plans aim at including a kitchen and recreational services.

“It’s better,” said Alderman Druh Ferrel about the new location. “I’ve got four homeless shelters in my ward, permanent ones. The Brick was the fifth. It was a little close to the core, but it functioned very well.”

The Mustard Seed’s report recommended the city pay for the transit fares to transport prospective clients to the shelter because of its separation from the core, where much of homeless population is situated.

While transportation to the site may initially be problematic for homeless found in the downtown core, both experts and aldermen agree that the shelter’s separation is generally beneficial. Dr. Jeannette Waegamakers Schiff from the University of Calgary’s department of social work believed many cases in the U.S. have served as a warning against segregated low-income communities and approved of the shelter as a short-term solution.

“I think it’s an extremely important idea that the city spread out its services to homeless people to other areas of the city,” she said. “To draw all of the homeless into a very small area of the downtown core does not serve the homeless well, nor does it serve the rest of the city well.”

The area in which the shelter will be located is mostly zoned for light industrial development, making it possible for some at the shelter to find nearby work. Alderman Joe Ceci explained this was one reason for the choice of location, despite initial safety-related concerns from the companies in the area.

“Someone has done a survey and found that there’s probably a third of potential users of this shelter that will work in the area surrounding the shelter,” he said. “The mayor said ‘You know, I drove around and there were a lot of help wanted signs,’ so he felt confident the area would be a good location for introducing a shelter.”

The shelter will be open for six months in the winter season, from November to April.

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