With portable trailers in place and a proposed operator ready to assume operation, Wetaskiwin’s temporary warming shelter is set to open in early December.
The Mustard Seed, the proposed shelter operator, visited the site last week to prepare for the Dec. 1 opening of the emergency shelter, which includes toilets and space for 20 sleeping mats spaced six feet apart, said Paul Edginton, General Manager of Community and Protective Services, during a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce.
City staff have been working with the Winter Shelter Advisory Committee, a committee of Council whose members bring combined expertise in shelter, medical and policing services, to find a viable solution to the temporary outdoor encampment before sub-zero temperatures arrive. The City had previously received a $150,000 federal capital grant toward establishing the temporary shelter on city-owned land on a road allowance along 37A Avenue. The shelter is scheduled to be in place until March 31.
Edginton and Mayor Tyler Gandam both commended the many people working together to find solutions to the challenges facing those experiencing homelessness in the community.
Jesse Hanks, Nat Pearce, and Chevi Rabbit, for example, have worked to ensure those at the camp are prepared for the winter, including equipping every person with a coat, boots, hat, socks and gloves. They’re currently seeking ongoing donations of firewood to help keep people warm while Wetaskiwin awaits the opening of the shelter.
With donations of food, clothing and significant volunteer time, the local community has really come together, Edginton said, “and the calls continue to come in.”
“Much work remains at all levels, Edginton added.
Mayor Gandam encouraged all attendees to recognize that the frustrations experienced by the City and community while seeking support on this issue “likely pale in comparison to the ongoing daily experiences of those currently living at the encampment and those struggling with severe mental health and addictions issues.
“We aren’t done. The emergency shelter was a fire that we needed to put out again, but we need to keep working until the systemic social issues within our community cease to exist,” he said. “We need to work with community agencies, and we aren’t always going to agree. We need to find the courage in ourselves and work together to find solutions to these issues.”
Moving forward, the Mustard Seed is looking for additional staff to support the shelter services, and will provide training for those selected. Anyone with questions — or wanting to provide donations — can email the City’s Community Development Coordinator, Rachel Rarick, at firstname.lastname@example.org.