July 20th, 2024

Different reasons exist for homeless not using shelters

By Lethbridge Herald on January 10, 2024.

People gather in the snow along a row of benches Wednesday afternoon at the Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Centre. Questions have been raised as to why there are still many homeless individuals sleeping outside despite the shelter’s extra capacity. Herald photo by Steffanie Cositgan

Steffanie Costigan – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Are the new temporary heating shelters being utilized in winter by individuals experiencing homelessness? 

Recently, the provincial government and the City of Lethbridge announced 50 temporary heated shelters would be available to individuals’ experiencing homelessness from December 2023, until April 2024.

The province announced last month it was giving the City $1 million to fund the temporary shelter spaces.

In the announcement, Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services Jason Nixon said the government’s priority is to keep the most vulnerable people safe during the winter season in partnership with the Blood Tribe. 

“As we head into the winter months, one of our top priorities is making sure our most vulnerable people have a safe and warm place to stay and access to the supports they need. These additional shelter spaces in Lethbridge are an example of our strong partnership with the Blood Tribe Department of Health that will make a difference in a community with an urgent need,” said Nixon at the time.

However, questions have risen why there are still many homeless individuals sleeping out in the cold despite the shelter’s extra capacity. 

The Herald reached out to  the Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Centre about use of the temporary heating shelters but nobody has responded to repeated requests for comment.

Streets Alive owner Ken Kissick, however, told The Herald on Wednesday that a couple of challenges prevent homeless individuals from utilizing the shelters and getting out of the cold. 

“The drugs are a bigger role for people than their own life-preserving needs. And in most cases, the individual would have to give up the ability to use drugs to go into these places. And it’s an unfortunate decision that they’re making to remain outdoors in this kind of weather,” said Kissick. 

Kissick encouraged residents who see anything concerning with homeless individuals to not turn a blind eye but rather seek assistance for them.

“There are a variety of reasons individuals will not access shelters. Everything from personal feelings through intimidation through drug use through a behaviour. There’s a wide range of reasons why. With that said, there are warming spaces available to the population. The big thing is knowing where. 

“You’re talking about a group of people that aren’t exactly checking the news or seeing online for what’s available out there for them. So a lot of it is either word of mouth or lack of knowledge. You got a group of people that maybe won’t don’t even know where to go,” he said. 

Kissick said homelessness and accessing shelters is “a very complicated and complex issue that doesn’t necessarily have just an easy ‘this reason is what it is, and we can solve it right now kind of thing.’ 

“It’s a layered and complex situation to deal with and there’s several different approaches on how to deal with it. And then there are several different organizations that are all working very hard to help with that.”

Kissick said people suffering from addiction have different thought processes than others.

“Addiction and homelessness can be as foreign to your average individual that hasn’t dealt with it, as living in a home is foreign to those individuals that have spent their life on the street. We have a typical thought process of, ‘hey, it’s cold, I’m going inside. It’s cold I need to get gloves.’ 

“The thought process when it comes to the individuals who might be addicted or having mental health concerns isn’t going to be that. There has to be a bit of an understanding of that being that their brains aren’t firing, telling them to get inside and get warm. Their brain’s firing, telling them whether or not they need to go get a fix,” said Kissick. 

Organizations such as Streets Alive accept donations of warm clothes and blankets that go to homeless individuals during the winter season. 

Kissick said personal choice, mental health and drugs are all playing factors. 

“It comes down to personal choice, it comes down to drugs, it comes down to mental health. All of those things combined can lead to a number of different reasons why you may see someone out on the street rather than somewhere sheltered warm.”

Share this story:

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Thank you Mr Kissick for giving readers some understanding to this issue.

Dennis Bremner

Funny how some have an understanding of the complexity of this issue yet still think that the people who need their fix, far more than their fear of freezing to death, still should be allowed to make their own decisions? Or, the caregivers will watch limbs become infected and have to be amputated, and still believe the individual should have right to choose when they should rehab, as if they still have the mindset to make those decision!
I find this amazingly cruel and self-serving!

Last edited 6 months ago by Dennis Bremner

You couldn’t have said this better! And totally agree that it’s the non-profits who know this and press for More housing/shelter when they won’t even use them (or at best, in and out like a revolving door) that is what is Very cruel and self-serving! Will it ever be realized that they are unable to make healthy decisions for themselves; whether it be shelter or the continued use of drugs. Either way they are destined to die and we are allowing this to happen.


There is no doubt that Streets Alive is valuable asset to the community during this crisis and I believe they have saved many more lives by far than any safe consumption site or other failed harm reduction program.
Here is something that many are not aware of: BC is moving and in the last stages of finalizing a new policy, supplying safe supply fentanyl by presciption to addicts for free, which include adults and minors . . . you heard that correctly, and to minors WITHOUT PARENTAL NOTIFICATION OR AUTHORIZATON.
This is just how bizarre and backward BC has become in their desperation to prove harm reduction works! Are the leaders in that province also drug addicts? . . . or have they gone over to the darkside? I cannot believe this! The very drug that has got many addicted is now going to be handed out to anyone that passes their 2 step interview process.
Back to the shelter/homeless issue:
In Lethbridge, the ones we see living rough on the streets downtown are not going to sleep in a shelter because they cannot stay in one and still operate their criminal acts to support their addiction and to satisfy the organized crime factions that put them on the streets.
Downtown is where they operate, supplying drugs, weapons, prostitutes and other illegal services and many who are up all night are part of the prostitution/drug dealing gangs who supply services to John’s and addicts.
This same group also commits acts of property damage, graffiti, break and enters into buildings and vehicles, assaults/thefts and fires.
The question also is which downtown building/buildings will we lose this year during the cooler temps, not if but when and which ones. These individuals have zero respect for themselves, others, or others properties, mostly due to the drug use.
We need more ‘effective treatment’ programs for addiction and mental health and we need an increase in drug courts.
It does work when the treatment program is effective and deals with the ’cause’ of the addiction. ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences), PTSD, mental health issues, etc., are all causes of the addiction where addicts use drugs to ‘escape’ the pain and the thoughts and programs which deal with these issues are successful and achieve rates of 70-80% success rates as apposed the many others which often see rates of as low as 20% success rates.
These effective programs last 12-24 months and include getting the recovering addict back into the workforce, with follow up counselling.
It works!!!!
Harm reduction policies we see in BC are a complete failure and after 20 years, the proof is there now! Alberta is trying to get enough treatment beds available, but it takes time, since there are shortages of addiction and mental health professionals as well.
The truly homeless in Lethbridge are not the ones out all night on the streets and sleeping during the day in the parks and around businesses . . . they are the criminal gang elements.
Do I have compassion for them? Of course, even though I have been a victim of the crimes from this crisis, several times in the last 6 years. I want to see them off the streets and enjoying life that I believe can happen under the right policies.
I have personally had to deal with many on the streets in the past few years, getting to know many ( most of which are no longer alive ), and see organized crime using them as pawns to earn their illegal revenues. Human life is nothing to them . . . one dies, they bring in someone to replace them!
Now, can you imagine if you lived in BC and your 14 year old is getting high on government supplied fentanyl, without your knowledge. He/she drops out of school because the drugs have warped their mind and they no longer have visions of a normal life, create conflict at home with their family, and now believe they will just live on the streets and take the free safe supply drugs and all the services now supplied that will give him food, often tents/blankets or sleeping bags, all the drug paraphernalia they need with very little counselling services offered. Some will survive weeks, some a few years, but it is a life of Hell that you do not want your child to suffer . . . but the government has no problem supplying the drugs to them . . .one of the most addictive drugs in the world!
I don’t know about you, but I am mad, angry to see a government lead a nation into this darkness! Our tax dollars are helping pay for this madness in BC with federal tax dollars.
Alberta is on the right path and with all the programs BC has brought forward that continue to fail in their desperate, foolish acts, Alberta has a lower per capita fatal overdose rate.
Alberta also only has 7 safe consumption sites, while BC has over 30! They just do not get it!

Last edited 6 months ago by ewingbt