By Gillian Slade on January 5, 2018.
The Salvation Army provides overnight shelter for the homeless at the Centre of Hope and it also runs a centre downtown.
It has a contract with and receives funding through the provincial government to provide 12 hours of shelter each night, seven nights a week at Centre of Hope, said Maj Murray Jaster.
“The funding does not stretch for more than that,” said Jaster.
The type of shelter provided and even the hours people can stay there has changed significantly in the past 17 years.
Homeless shelters are governed by provincial regulations, and in Medicine Hat the standards are higher than the minimum required.
Provincial requirements specify the provision of a mat on the floor, a blanket and a pillow, said Jaster. It provides a clean, neat, warm and safe environment for someone needing temporary shelter.
The Centre of Hope has mainly bunkbeds with mattresses, a sheet, blanket and pillow.
The Salvation Army shelter first opened in 2000. That December a News story says the shelter operated from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. If someone was ill they were allowed to stay during the day. When temperatures dropped to -15 C or colder, everyone was allowed to stay all day. The shelter provided three meals and accepted men, women and families.
Even up to the end of 2009, homeless were allowed to stay at the Salvation Army family support centre during the day if it was -15 C or colder.
In 2010, the province embraced the vision of ending homelessness, and goals for all shelters changed, said Jaster.
At the time the Salvation Army shelter did not accept anyone who was intoxicated. But there was also another shelter — Winter’s Inn — that took the intoxicated. The government decided to support only one shelter. Winter’s Inn closed and the Salvation Army began accepting people who are intoxicated.
To comply with government regulations, renovations totalling about $200,000 took place including installing fire sprinklers, said Jaster.
Operating rules also changed. The upstairs had to be divided from the lower level to accommodate the intoxicated. It was also required to have a minimum of four staff on duty. They could no longer accept children.
By 2011 there were government funding cutbacks, and shelters could only stay open 16 hours a day. In 2012, it was reduced to 12 hours a day.
Independent of the “shelter,” the Salvation Army, with its own financing, provides a “Resource Centre” in the basement of a downtown church, behind the Salvation Army’s Thrift Store. This provides a place for the homeless and the lonely to congregate for social interaction and stay warm. A hot meal is provided there each afternoon.
Additional information about the government’s initiative on homelessness is available online.
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