With the weather taking a harsh turn for the worse, Saskatoon’s homeless shelters expect to see an influx of people seeking a warm bed.
“Now that winter is arriving we always see a bit more of an increase once temperatures get colder, so we will see a change in the next few days,” said Malba Holliday, executive director with the Salvation Army. “We’re always ready for this as a shelter here in the city we get used to the flow of the homeless who are around.”
The Salvation Army runs both a men’s and a women’s shelter in Saskatoon, and while neither are sitting at full capacity, Holliday said they operate on a first-come first-serve basis so those seeking shelter need to act soon, before the weather dips further.
The men’s shelter on Avenue C South has 53 beds plus an overflow area where they can house at least 10 more. The Mumford House is a women-and-children-only shelter with nine family units.
“We’re usually at capacity in January and February, but there’s always room to take more people in, we have extra space and extra beds as we need we’re never at a point where we can’t take in anyone else,” Holliday said. “People can stay as long as they want.”
This winter The Salvation Army is once again opening up the Warm Room, a place where men, women and children can come in for a few hours to warm up and play games or just take a break.
DeAnn Mercier with the Lighthouse Assisted Living Centre said in the past 24 hours she’s seen at least a dozen people come in seeking respite from the cold, however winter doesn’t bring an unusual amount of people to the emergency shelter.
“People need emergency shelter throughout the year. People want a place where they can be safe year-round and while our thoughts might turn when the weather turns, people need these services all year,” Mercier said.
On Friday The Lighthouse is opening a new stabilization station which will offer 38 more beds on top of the 80 they already have between emergency shelters and another stabilization unit. Mercier said stabilization units are meant to house individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol experiencing homelessness and it usually fills up the quickest.
Over at the YWCA, executive director Barb Macpherson said year-round they’re at capacity, and they’ve been forced to turn hundreds of people away.
“Often we’re not able to meet the demand and we haven’t noticed an increase in calls and it doesn’t really change between seasons,” she said.
With 34 beds split across 18 rooms, Macpherson said the YWCA does their best not to turn anyone away, and they put some clients in hotels if they can on a case-by-case basis.
Temperature will briefly come back above the freezing mark with Sunday expected to see a high of 4 C.