July 14th, 2024

Safety protocols prompt some to avoid shelter, but none are turned away: BTDH

By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 16, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan People gather outside of the Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Centre as last week's cold snap settled into place.

With the concerning low drop in temperatures last weekend, worries for individuals experiencing homelessness utilizing the shelters extra capacity space of the temporary shelters have been frequently raised.

Blood Tribe Department of Health chief operating officer, Kash Shade acknowledged some individuals may not want to utilize the shelter due to belongings restrictions.

“It’s definitely an issue we’re noticing as well. I know, part of it is just our safety protocols. We do have some pretty strict checking and screening processes at the shelter. We do require all belongings and including, obviously, illicit substances and paraphernalia to be checked in our intake room. And I know that is a key that discourages some of the shelter guests who may want to stay outside and possibly partake in illicit drug use,” said Shade.

Shade said the nightly headcount for the shelter is approximately 160 and the shelter has adequate space for 190.

“We’re definitely prepared for (if) the numbers get to those levels as well and that’s not including our 18 stabilization units, which is a bit of a specialty unit. We’re a quick transition for those inquiring into longterm care, longterm residential treatment programs in a detox or treatment centre. So there is adequate shelter space,” he expressed.

Shade said despite the limited storage space for belongings, shelter staff try to accommodate as much as possible.

“We also really encourage, especially with the cold weather, for guests to come inside the shelter during the day for deprogramming. Again, some choose not to participate for whatever reason. Storage is also a big barrier.

“Because of our limited storage space shelter guests are only able to check in so many of their personal belongings, which, again, when in the homeless population, they have a lot of belongings, and so we try our best to accommodate all their needs.”

Shade said the shelter encourages homeless people to utilizes shelters during the cold.

“The ultimate message we’d like to get out there (is) nobody is turned away. We do really encourage everybody to come inside day and night, especially with extreme cold. The last thing we would want to hear is that someone has succumbed to any kind of injuries. Frostbite is what we see regularly. Extreme cold problems associated with extreme cold. And then obviously, of course, any kind of fatalities because of that,” he said.

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