New policy provides cold-weather shelter for homeless

A policy is in the works that will bring people at risk of homelessness inside during extreme cold weather.

The extreme weather policy will see the doors of the Flin Flon Aboriginal Friendship Centre open to those without a warm place to sleep between 10 pm and 7 am beginning on January 8 and running through March.

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The policy is an initiative of the Everyone Deserves A Home Committee – a group made up of about a dozen people from the Friendship Centre and Northern Health Region – which strives to find solutions for Flin Flon’s homeless population along with those at risk of becoming homeless.

Jason Straile, housing coordinator for the Flin Flon Aboriginal Friendship Centre said there are several communities across Canada that have extreme weather policies in effect, but Flin Flon hadn’t developed one.

“We’re looking at creating one so we can have a space open at the Friendship Centre when it’s -30 degrees and below including the windchill, to give somebody a safe, warm place to spend the night because there isn’t a shelter in this community,” said Straile.

Those who make use of the policy will sleep in the youth centre at the Friendship Centre. The Friendship Centre itself has a functional hostel, but there is no vacancy in it. As it stands, there are no beds for those who come inside. While temperatures have dipped steadily below -30 over the last few weeks, the centre has been unable to open.

“It doesn’t look like anything, yet. That’s why we haven’t opened,” said Straile.

“We’re looking for donations of blankets, pillows, cots, mattresses, or something to put on the floor. [Right now they will have] blankets and some pillows, sleeping on the floor, but it’s better than sleeping on a garage floor or outside, somewhere warm and safe.”

The policy is modeled after those of other communities in Canada, specifically Saskatoon, which sees doors open at -30 temperatures as well. Straile said if the makeshift shelter were to be open in warmer temperatures, it would be open every night.

“Unfortunately we don’t have the financial wherewithal to do that. We don’t have the money to keep a shelter, or get a shelter open,” said Straile.

“Following other policies throughout Canada, that was about where most of them have set it. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Saskatoon’s strategy is guided by a set of principles that include everyone being allowed access to emergency shelter, including intoxicated people or those who were previously banned from admittance to shelters.

A study from May 2014 found there were about 110 people in Flin Flon who self-identified as homeless at the time. That number only reflects the people who came forward for the study.

To donate items to be used during extreme weather nights, contact Jason Straile at (204) 687-8855.

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