July 18th, 2024

SPC supports Harbour House expansion plans

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on December 15, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The Safety and Social Standing Policy Committee of Lethbridge city council on Thursday supported a request by the YWCA of Lethbridge and District to reallocate capital funding for the expansion of its emergency womens shelter at Harbour House.

City council will consider the SPC’s recommendation that the remaining $202,483.80 of unused money from the Affordable Housing Fund go towards the expansion.

City council in April of 2017 had allocated the YWCA $251,000 from that fund for capital planning.

The YWCA is seeking to expand its emergency shelter capacity at Harbour House from 24 beds to 26. The operation currently receives about $1.6 million in operational funding from the province and the expansion will require between $1.2 million and $1.5 million more.

The money will go to adding more spaces for beds, administration and programming at Harbour House on its second and third floors.

The YWCA had been operating a permanent supportive housing program in its main building downtown but in April transitioned the contract to Lethbridge Housing Authority. This opened space and rooms for future programing.

Harbour House gets funding through the Ministry of Children and Family Services to operate an emergency shelter on a single floor at the building.

Harbour House operates a 24-bed crisis shelter with maximum 21-day stays for women, children and people identifying as women. It has a hotline operating seven days a week, 24 hours a day to provide basic needs, resources and emotional support.

Due to the multi-functionality of the building and security needs of the shelter, Harbour House has been limited to a single floor which has limited functionality and capacity, said a report to the SPC.

In the fiscal year of 2023, more than 1,400 women and children have been turned away from the shelter for a variety of reasons. In 2022/23, Harbour House turned away almost 700 women and children because of capacity and more than 500 due to them not meeting the priority of intake.

Between 60 and 65 per cent of Harbour House clients identify as Indigenous or First Nations.

A presentation to the SPC showed access requests for single women have increased 11 per cent over the past three years while family requests for accommodations have grown by more than 200 per cent.

The expansion would reduce by about 10 per cent the 254 people the last Point in Time count showed were unsheltered homeless people in the city, the SPC heard.

The expansion would include a family floor and a floor for single women. The building, the SPC was old, is already zoned for shelter use.

“We are at capacity, we have no space,” said Young, the Chief Executive Officer of YWCA Lethbridge & District.

Provincial data for 2023 shows across Alberta 3,561 children were sheltered and 8,020 children were unable to be sheltered because shelters didn’t have enough space to meet the level of demand. That number is a 48 per cent increase over the previous year.

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