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'No one in our country needs to freeze to death or go homeless': Prince Albert groups search for shelter funding

Non-profit groups that work with Prince Albert’s homeless population are sounding alarm bells as government COVID-19 relief funding used for a winter shelter has stopped.

“For this winter, we really need every one to come together and work together to come up with a place to keep people out of the cold,” said River Bank Development Manager Brian Howell. “Otherwise we’re going to have a situation like back in 2012 where we’re going to have a number of deaths.”

During the COVID pandemic in 2020 - 2022, YWCA Prince Albert, Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC), River Bank, the Community Advisory Board on Homelessness and the Prince Albert Exhibition Association collaborated to fund and operate the Stepping Stones Cold Weather Shelter at the Prince Albert Exhibition Grounds.

Based on the previous two years expenses of the cold weather shelter $400,000 - $500,000 is needed to operate for six and half months from the fall until mid-April,  YWCA Prince Albert CEO Donna Brooks said.

The groups have contacted all levels of government to find funding for a winter shelter but so far they have been unsuccessful.

Currently, Prince Albert doesn’t have a cold weather shelter for the homeless and no men’s shelter.

“We need to come together and find a long term sustainable solution for this,” said YWCA CEO Donna Brooks.

The groups are looking to find a building that could accommodate 50 beds, is zoned appropriately for a shelter and meets the fire and health and safety requirements.

Howell said the PA Exhibition Association has been a great partner, however, with the pandemic restrictions removed people can gather and many groups want to utilize the building again.

The groups say they are hopeful the province will recognize the need and provide funding for a winter shelter this season. The provincial government currently provides the majority of the funding for YWCA shelter services.

Howell said the need is greater than before. A point in time count of absolute homelessness went from 26 people on the street to 57, more than double the last count. 

The groups are “case conferencing” and work together to help individuals with their personal barriers and get off the streets.

Summer proposals by the Mustard Seed to open a shelter were denied by the City of Prince Albert due to their proposed shelter locations downtown.

At present, the only overnight shelter in Prince Albert is a 24-hour shelter for women, children and youth operated by YWCA Prince Albert

PAGC operates a day time warming center in the Union Centre called the Moose Lodge. It provides meals and clothing to the homeless from Monday to Friday.

Some churches and faith groups also assist the homeless and hungry with meals held on certain days and times.

There are beds available at the Social Detox Center at the Victoria Union Hospital for those who are intoxicated.

The YWCA also operates Homeward Bound that finds housing for homeless people and provides them with support.

“A lot of our homeless populations that we are seeing, just isn’t ready for that (Homeward Bound program) but no one in our country needs to freeze to death or go homeless,” said Donna Brooks.

River Benk Development also works with several organizations and social services to find low-income housing for people in need.

“We are coming at this from all angles, we aren’t just saying build shelters. We recognize that reintegration into to the community and a return to normal type of life is the answer,” said Howell. Top Stories

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