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Calgary shelters ready to house city homeless in bitter cold: Mayor Gondek

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said city shelters are ready to house the unhoused, as overnight temperatures are projected to be between -10 and -25 Celsius for the next two weeks.  

The mayor met with the media Friday afternoon to provide an update on work to warm Calgary’s homeless population. Earlier in the month, the mayor was upset an encampment was dismantled near the Calgary Drop-In Centre, leaving many without a place to stay.

As a result, a city committee approved $750,000 in emergency aid to help better equip outreach groups to assist those living rough.

“I know many of us who had a warm place to sleep last night had a very troubled sleep, knowing that we have neighbors and citizens in our city that did not have the same experience,” Mayor Gondek said.

She said there are 1,150 emergency shelter spaces available. Just over 900 people were provided a place to stay as temperatures dipped. The mayor talked about the efforts of outreach workers overnight, helping to get people housed.

The Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) team responded to 18 calls overnight. Three of the calls were people trying to stay warm on grates outside Eau Claire Market.

The mayor said they’d continue to encourage the homeless to access shelters.

At the Dec. 8 committee meeting, however, committee members heard that not everyone feels safe accessing shelters.

Dana Lyons, president and co-founder of the Street Sisters Society, said there are trust and safety issues for many clients.

“There is an underlying, and growing underlying problem, with these vulnerable folks not accessing shelters,” Lyons said at the time.

More warming stations?

The mayor said that in consultation with their experts it was important to divert folks to existing shelters where there are wraparound services. The mayor said they’ve attempted to address any bans and barriers some may have to shelter access.

“If you have a place that people can go that is already warm and interested in providing supports, that’s where we should be taking people,” she said.