Shelters in winter

Things are going to get cold quickly /

Things are going to get cold quickly /

Warm clothes are needed by shelters as winter begins

Article: Paige Kreuzweiser – Staff Writer

It is inevitable – winter is coming.

For most of us, we have the luxury of turning on our furnaces, sitting in front of a fire, or command-starting our cars from inside our house.

But not everyone is as fortunate.

Although certain preparations are changing for shelters around Saskatchewan, gearing up to help the homeless prepare for the frosty winter months ahead doesn’t actually change many logistics.

“Our shelters operate the same way 365 days a year,” stated Rebecca Cochrane, Director of Development and Programs for Souls Harbour Rescue Mission.

“Our numbers fluctuate throughout the year, but not necessarily because of the weather.”

The same goes for Regina Transition House, who stated that their numbers

do not necessarily change because of the winter weather.

“We are busy no matter what time of year it is,” said Maria Hendrika,

Executive Director of the emergency shelter for women.

The biggest demand these shelters have is the need for clothing.

“We always need socks,” said Melissa Donaldson, Administrator at Riverside Mission, a men’s shelter located in Moose Jaw. “Toques, scarves, mittens, jackets, anything donated we start stocking up.”

[pullquote]“We always need socks, toques, scarves, mittens, jackets, anything donated we start stocking up.”[/pullquote]

Food also gets donated (like turkeys for their Christmas dinner), which Donaldson is appreciative about as they are looking to increase their meals in the soup kitchen.

“We find we are getting more people coming out for meals [in the winter], which is weird because I thought it would be the opposite,” said Donaldson.

But there is a different peak time that Donaldson really noticed.

“The closer it gets to welfare cheque days the more people we have, and then after welfare cheque day we don’t have as many people. So I found we can kind of judge [peaks in numbers] that way.”

The amount of beds can also become a problem.

“In the winter, we do prepare to sleep people on the floor if the weather gets extremely cold,” said Cochrane.

For Riverside, although they also claim a constant busy state throughout the year, ten beds can fill up pretty fast – especially in the winter. And not all are reoccurring faces.

“A couple guys we’ve seen in the past have shown up, but there are a lot of new guys as well,” said Donaldson.

None of the men living at Riverside were enthusiastic about commenting on their life in the shelter, but there was a general thankfulness for the opportunity to have a place to go.

“I find we get a lot of people that say, in Regina, had bad friends so they are trying to get away from those friends and start a new life,” explained Donaldson.

With frigid weather also comes that increased likelihood of health issues.

“For the staff we are a little more careful come flu season about washing our hands and using gloves and that kind of thing,” said Donaldson. “But it’s up to the [residents] to take care of themselves.”

So, despite the increased need for clothing, food, and health precautions, all shelters echoed Cochrane words of Souls Harbor’s open door policy.

“We continue to remind people that we are available if they do not have a safe place to stay.”

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