June 24th, 2024

Streets Alive warming centre helping soften winter’s chill


By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 3, 2023.

People stand outside of the Streets Alive Mission Monday morning, as the facility continues to serve the city's vulnerable as a comfort centre during the winter months. Herald photo

The recent cold snap in southern Alberta saw temperatures dip below the double digits with the wind chill exasperating the freeze.

To help those in need without a warm place to go, the City of Lethbridge asked Streets Alive Mission to expand its hours and provide a 24-hour comfort centre through the winter months. Located at 323 4 St. S., Streets Alive began its extended hours on Dec. 1, with efforts continuing on until March 31, 2023.

“It has been cold. We didn’t see warm weather till just after Christmas,” said Cam Kissick, director of operations at Streets Alive. “We saw a lot of frostbite through December. There are a lot of people that are sore and hurting. They were grateful to be able to come in, I know the shelter they were packed to the rafters as well. There are a lot of people that were just so grateful for a little bit of space to come in and sit down and warm up.”

Hoping to add more aid to the City’s extreme cold response supports, the partnership helps open more space to the vulnerable.

“We have never done a warming centre before, this is the first time we have ever done it,” said Kissick. “The City was seeking other alternatives for additional shelters or bigger shelters, things like that. They knew this coming winter that there were more people in need than there was space in the shelter. So they asked us if we could figure out something to do to fill the gap for this work.” Kissick notes they are open 24 hours but will also close, weather dependent, to clean the facility.

Located in the downtown core area, Streets Alive advocates to provide physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs for the vulnerable.

On Dec. 22, Lethbridge Police Service arrested a 43-year-old man for drug trafficking charges around the area of 4 and 5 Street South. Kissick notes they are always happy to see drugs off the street when they are trying hard to run a drug-free operation.

“We are an abstinence-based organization,” said Kissick. “We want people to stop doing them. So if they want to do a big bust and get them off the street, we are more than happy because those drugs aren’t going to be killing people.”

Strict on its policy, Streets Alive has security on-site to help enforce those rules.

“We have security on staff, and a number of staff on shift, we are well into security,” said Kissick. “We have security that does both interior and exterior of the building, including the block to try and help mitigate some of the issues outside for our neighbours.”

Happy for the support for those in the area, Kissick notes the support from everyone to help Streets Alive do what they can.

“Things have gone exceptionally well, all things considered. I think a large part of that is due to our neighbours being as gracious as they have been,” said Kissick. “Understanding that it has a direct impact on their businesses and they have been supportive to it, understanding that there was a need for (the warming centre).”

Open during the winter weather providing a retreat from the cold, Streets Alive will continue its roll until March 31 when it will resume normal hours of operation.

“All things considered, I believe it is going incredibly smooth,” said Kissick. “A big thank you to our neighbours in the community, especially indirect neighbours for being supportive and appreciate it and understanding as they have been.”

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Dennis Bremner

Yes Mr Kissick, its all Ice Cream and Puppy Dogs for your Neighbors. Its all wonderful for them and I am sure they are just jumping for joy knowing this will continue until the end of March. Who needs income, I mean after all, its just money?
So Mr. Kissick, this must be costing you a fortune to provide security and do what you are doing, right? I trust all the grants, donations city money etc do not leave you in a lurch? You are probably the only business making money, but not to worry?
It is a sad thing what we have to do to our city because of a lack of planning. Did no one know winter comes every year? Its well known, I think, that winter hits every “winter”, isn’t it?

Last edited 1 year ago by Dennis Bremner
ewingbt

Sorry Dennis, I agree stand with you most of the time but we will have to agree to disagree on this comment. The issue is not Streets Alive . . . they have and continue to do a lot of good in this community and have a good success rate in their treatment programs.
Just like in the military, when you start a new mission outside of SOP’s, there needs to be some adjustments. I don’t think they were aware of how the street people have changed in the last year. There are very aggressive, doing what they want, because there have been very few deterrents.
The current policies on our streets have allowed, or conditioned a group to become ‘Lord of the Flies’ types. I know from dealing with them firsthand.

Dennis Bremner

Streets Alive did not let any of its business neighbors know it had applied for temp warming/ shelter. They applied at probably the biggest time of the year for sales for them. Warming shelters can be set up in ANY commercial building. We have empty ones, but we keep on shooting ourselves in the foot.

ewingbt

Streets Alive never applied, they were asked by the City of Lethbridge. They also stated they had enough room for about 60 people, not the over 100 that showed up!
This is the same old issue proven over and over again . . . build it and they will come . . . in this case, they opened up and they flowed in.
No one expected the high numbers and when you consider that the Alpha house shelter that the Blackfoot Confederacy now operates is only supposed to for under 100 people, yet had over 4 times the staff of Streets Alive, it is now wonder they were overwhelmed.
The issue is not Streets Alive, but the homeless that has created all this issues and the apathy of many of the downtown business owners who are now screaming out, that never supported all the protests to end the homeless and addiction issues on our streets.
Where were they over the last 5 years? Where was the Chamber of Commerce?
I have news for all of you . . . and you agree Dennis, if we don’t stop this now, we WILL be another Vancouver DTES.
And IF the NDP gets in, they will open another SCS and you may as well burn downtown Lethbridge, because it will be another money pit wasting tens of millions of taxpayer’s money.
This is what happens when people sit back and say ‘There is nothing I can do’ . . . there is lots one person can do but even more when it is a group of dedicated people pushing for change!

lethbridge local

“Thanks to our neighbors” oh you mean the now out of business mocha cabana? And the soon to be out of business osho’s? Nothing like driving long standing locally owned businesses to shut down so we can keep drug addicts and thieves warm.

ewingbt

I liked Moch Cabana, and sat with an already stressed two young ladies who ran it in 2018 during the City’s Community Sessions meetings at the Lodge. They were trying to survive then and sadly were one of many that were impacted by the crisis. It was sad to see them go!
The problem wasn’t Streets Alive . . . the issues are from the failure to address the problems on our streets properly. We still try to follow many principles/policies that BC has used, even though they fail have proven to fail over 20 years.
The feds and provincial governments are the reason we are where we are at today. We still are impacted by the elements that came to our city when the SCS opened. Police have had their hands bound by poor legislation and Council taking over $1 million from their budget a few years ago, leaving them undermanned!
Blame the mistakes governments have made in dealing with the issues!

ewingbt

I really do not believe Streets Alive were aware of the monumental task they would face in opening a 24/7 warming site at their location. The people on the streets have changed in the last 2 years. There feel it is their right to be on the streets and have lived lawless for so long, they do what they want, when they want.
Police arrest them and the Crown kicks them back on the street and sometimes the same offender is arrested several times in one day. Police are frustrated with the provincial and federal judicial systems. When police make an arrest they have a considerable amount of paperwork to do so when the case goes to court they have the facts to support the charge. There are only so many hours in a shift, cutbacks by the previous Council didn’t help and one can only respond to so many complaints in each shift after all the paperwork.
Add to that the aggressiveness seen in the street people in the last year, with more assaults/threats against business owners, citizens, police/fire-EMS/security and you may have an idea of what Streets Alive is now dealing with. 3 years ago this aggression was not seen on the streets in such high numbers.
Don’t blame Streets Alive, they are only trying to help! Blame the provincial and federal goverments for not having the right legislation in place for police to do their jobs and for not having the treatment and mental health facilities in place.
Streets Alive has several other programs they do an excellent job performing, including treatment, which they have a great success rate in.
The real problem that has caused all the issues is the criminal elements on our streets that many label as the city’s most vulnerable, calling them homeless.
The ones in the encampments, on the streets and many in the shelters are here not to seek work or support themselves, are not there by some unfortunate experience that lost their home, but because they have chosen the life of crime. The most vulnerable have had a place to reside found for them and they accepted, gratefully.
These band of rebels on the streets wreaking havoc daily are a lawless group that we have shaped in our society to live as they, by not enforcing laws and by enabling them by bringing food to them on the streets where ever they are, free clothing, and all the drug paraphernalia they need to slowly kill themselves.
By being silent in the last 6 years, you have allowed this to grow!
Many of us have been on the frontlines trying to take back our city since 2016, while many of you sat back doing nothing.
If you think it is bad now, wait . . . because if the NDP gets in there will be another SCS opened in this city! They have already stated in the last year they believe in them and harm reduction, even though BC has had 20 years to prove it works and it has only shown it is a complete failure and waste of tax dollars. They now lose almost 200 lives per day from overdoses and they issues continue to increase.
Don’t blame Streets Alive for trying to help! Don’t blame police! Blame the governments and the businesses and citizens that sit back doing nothing saying ‘there is nothing can do’! A few hundred of us shut down the SCS and it took even less to shut down the illegal LOPS tent that was setting up in parks.
If you want your city back, start making you voice heard by writing letters to all levels of government, to the Herald and if you see a protest (legal) to take back our city coming up . . . go and stand with them . . . get involved . . . get engaged . . . this is your community and YOU DO HAVE A SAY!!!
Stand up for you city or it will be lost!