Saskatoon’s Cold Weather Strategy organizers seek more spaces to conform to COVID-19 guidelines
SASKATOON -- Organizations in charge of the Saskatoon’s Cold Weather Strategy worry spaces for the homeless will be harder to find when it gets to -30 C outside.
“We are facing some very interesting challenges because of COVID-19,” said Lyn Brown, executive director with Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP)
Each year, when the temperature gets below -30 C, a Cold Weather Alert is sent to partnering organizations and the Cold Weather Strategy kicks in. But with public health guidelines around physical distancing and the limits around gathering sizes, Brown said available spaces at warm-up locations across Saskatoon will be limited.
Brown said she’s reaching out to other organizations in Saskatoon to see if any more warm-up spaces could be made available before Saskatoon enters a deep-freeze.
“What we’ve been doing is talking to organizations in the community, thinking out of the box, where could we go, how could we increase the number of warm-up locations so that we can at least get back to the capacity that we may have had in previous years,” Brown said.
The Lighthouse Supported Living Centre is another organization in the Cold Weather Strategy. Executive director Don Windels said The Lighthouse recently underwent a thorough reassessment and it has expanded its shelter space to maintain the same number of beds while respecting physical distance.
“We should be able to accept as many people as last year, we opened more areas in our building,” he said.
On Tuesday, The Lighthouse said it was restricting access to its emergency shelters and its stabilization unit in light of a recent COVID-19 outbreak at the centre.
“This is a short term measure so we can be prepared for the winter,” Windels said.
Brown said anyone with space available for a warm-up location to reach out to SHIP. Brown expects to have a list of available location in the next two weeks and share that information across the city.
As the weather turns cold, she said Saskatoon is seeing a bump in the number of homeless people and now it’s a matter of ensuring they all have a place to go when it gets unbearably cold outside.
“Because of the cold weather, people migrate to Saskatoon because they feel there is more opportunity there for them to find shelter, so we are seeing more numbers,” she said.