Photo of people lying by air vent in Prince Albert sparks fundraising effort
PRINCE ALBERT -- Two people struggling with homelessness in Prince Albert say they want more funding for expanded shelter space and programming.
A photo that surfaced on Facebook earlier this week shows several people curled up in blankets, laying in front of an air vent at a Government of Canada building parking lot downtown.
In response to the photo, a group of university students say they’re raising money through a GoFundMe page to donate essential items such as warm clothing. The fundraiser is part of their Helping Hand initiative, said organizer Jonathon Cook.
Tammy Ballantyne regularly goes to Access Place when she needs something to eat. The 35-year-old said the city is lacking shelter space.
City Council unanimously approved a temporary 20-bed shelter at the exhibition grounds. However, Ballantyne said she’s typically with between 30 and 50 people without a place to call home.
Last year, 10 beds were available at the YWCA’s Our House cold weather shelter.
“We need something bigger because last year, they kept ringing the doorbell over there when it was full,” said Ballantyne.
Brian Bird, 22, said he’s been on the streets for about five years. He used to work at a fast food restaurant.
Unlike Ballantyne, he said he’s usually by himself. While friends in the same situation can help you out with finding shelter, he said it makes it more difficult to stay away from alcohol and drugs.
“You find a way to come up with new resources on how to stay warm,” he said.
Bird said he would like to see programs like Homeward Bound expanded.
“I got things done when someone was actually helping me, but telling someone where to go and what to do, it gives them a lack of motivation,” he said.
A Point in Time (PIT) count for Prince Albert in 2018 showed 47 people were staying in emergency shelters, while 30 people were living unsheltered.
The temporary shelter at the exhibition grounds is set to open on Monday.
During an interview when it was first announced, Brian Howell of the Riverbank Development Corporation said he’s unsure if homelessness has spiked since the pandemic began. He’s hoping the new shelter will give an idea of how many people are on the streets.