With a potential winter-ready trailer system in sight, the City of Wetaskiwin staff and volunteers are continuing to work toward establishing a temporary warming shelter for those experiencing homelessness.
The City has received a $150,000 federal capital grant toward establishing the temporary shelter on city-owned land on 37A Avenue. The proposed shelter will accommodate at least 20 individuals, plus staff, Paul Edginton, General Manager of Community and Protective Services, told council Nov. 8.
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 the cold weather arrives.
Efforts have been complicated by the fact that trailer systems are currently in high demand within the oil and gas sector, increasing both the demand and cost, Edginton said.
The City is currently in the process of reviewing the details with the hopes of finalizing an agreement for trailers that would have their own built-in water and waste-water system. And because they’re insulated, the only immediate need would be fencing and to bring in a generator, significantly reducing any site preparation costs.
The trailer system would allow the shelter to be opened relatively quickly, and would remain in place through the end of March 2022.
“Once details are finalized with the trailer vendor, it will take approximately five days to get to site with all the materials and another five days on site to complete it and then the doors are able to open… so 10 days from contract sign-off until the doors are open,” Edginton told council.
With cold weather looming, the Winter Shelter Advisory Committee has expressed some urgency, asking the City to look for alternatives, should the shelter not be achievable.
It’s hoped a trailer system will happen, but administration will continue to work with the Advisory Winter Shelter Committee and the Guiding Coalition of Homelessness to explore alternate options if needed, to provide winter emergency shelter for the City’s vulnerable population.
One church in town has indicated they could provide their basement as an option for a temporary shelter, with two days’ notice to prepare.
Responding to questions from Council, Edginton said staff are confirming funding possibilities, including whether funds remaining in a grant overseen by the Wetaskiwin Family & Community Support Services could be used for operational costs such as Narcan, first aid and cultural sensitivity training, as well as the private security. Additionally, Wetaskiwin Family & Community Support Services still has funds remaining that could help cover some operating costs, like staffing and training.
During a Special Council Meeting on Nov. 12, 2021, Wetaskiwin City Council unanimously approved a motion for an additional $35,000 to secure the lease for the trailers for the homeless encampment.
Administration asked for councils approval for these funds to be utilized from the City’s contingency reserve, as the costs for the trailer encampment solution that would meet the operational requirements of a winter emergency shelter surpasses the $150,000 grant, costing $185,000.
And because local RCMP currently do daily checks on the existing camp, it’s also likely those would continue with the new shelter, he added.