By Nicole Starker Campbell for The Pipestone Flyer
A brand new initiative brought local individuals in from the cold this winter. The City of Westaskiwin’s first emergency shelter saw 1,200 visits in its first year of operation.
The shelter, located in the Westaskiwin Civic Building on 51 Street, provided emergency shelter to those in need from February through April. At least 25 different people made use of the service over the three months.
The emergency shelter’s first month of operation saw record cold temperatures in the area that averaged -22.2 C according to Environment Canada. There were 213 visits to the space during the frigid temperatures in February.
April was the busiest month with 505 visits from those in need of a place to go, followed by 472 drop ins in March.
The emergency shelter was able to accommodate 25 people each night.
Director of Community Services Kevin Lucas says the City of Wetaskiwin received a $40,000 grant from the Province of Alberta to run the initiative for three months, from February through April.
The emergency shelter initiative was made possible through the funds received from the province, as well as a large compliment of volunteers. The shelter was staffed largely by community volunteers during the early evening hours.
Eventually a trained professional was hired to manage the shelter overnight. “Some of those who volunteered at the shelter were City of Wetaskiwin staff,” says Lucas. “But they did so only in a true volunteer capacity, and were not compensated for any time spent there.”
Lucas says the shelter has been well received, “Everyone has been very supportive of this initiative, including the local community and those using the shelter.”
The initiative has not been confirmed to run again in 2020, but Lucas says the city is in conversation with service providers, community partners, and the province of Alberta.