On Monday, the Bonnyville Friendship Centre opened their men’s homeless shelter with a solid plan to keep it open long term while making a dent in a growing issue.
The event was commemorated with a ribbon cutting ceremony that was attended by both BFC and local leaders.
The shelter is something that’s been in the works for some time according to Janet Gobert, community initiatives coordinator, at the Bonnyville Friendship Centre.
“Around a year ago we were seeing an increase in numbers of individuals accessing our soup kitchen and clothing depot, people who needed shelter,” said Gobert.
“And with the pandemic we did notice there was a demand for a safe shelter.”
The shelter sits at 5001 48th Street, behind the Red Apple on Main Street.
It will be able to house a maximum of eight occupants who will stay at the shelter under a three month rotational basis with the option of being reassessed at the end of their stay.
In order to qualify for residency, registrants will have to take part in the Centre’s Employment Strategy Program, which is designed to equip those staying at the shelter with the skills needed to enter the workforce.
There will be two staff members facilitating the shelter at all times throughout the year, with women employees working during the day and men during the night.
Drugs and alcohol will be banned from the premises, as will violence of any sort — any occupants violating these terms will be escorted off the premises.
Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski and MLA David Hanson were amongst those that showed up to celebrate the shelter’s opening and to voice their support.
“Here we are, celebrating the opening of this men’s shelter in the cool fall weather,” said Hanson.
“It might not feel like much now, but come nighttime temperatures will drop below zero, and those without anywhere to go will struggle to stay warm during the night.
“This shelter will help those struggling to help themselves.”
The shelter will be open to men of all ages and backgrounds, said Gobert.
“Homelessness in not an Indigenous or Non-Indigenous issue.”