DOAP Team keeps disadvantaged Calgarians safe during extreme cold snap

It’s Thursday afternoon with the temperature hovering in the low -20s C and Adam Melnyk is driving a client to an appointment at the Sheldon Chumir Centre in downtown Calgary, ensuring they don’t have to make their own way there through the frigid cold.

Team deals with street-level addiction and public intoxication issues in the city

The DOAP Team deals with street-level addiction and public intoxication issues in Calgary. 0:35

It's Thursday afternoon with the temperature hovering in the low —20s C and Adam Melnyk is driving a client to an appointment at the Sheldon Chumir Centre in downtown Calgary, ensuring they don't have to make their own way there through the frigid cold.

Melnyk is then called to an area business to check on someone in need of a warm place to stay. After that, he's off to a medical clinic to pick up another client and shuttle them to an area homeless shelter.

Melnyk is a member of the DOAP — Downtown Outreach Addictions Program — Team, which deals with street-level addiction and public intoxication issues in Calgary, helping clients navigate the various service and support agencies available to them.

And on the coldest days of the year, a big part of the team's job is shuttling clients so they can spend a few minutes getting warm while also getting where they're going.

Run through Alpha House Society — which offers shelter, outreach, detox and housing options for those addicted to drugs and alcohol with no place to stay — the team deals with social disorder issues, often being called in place of police and EMS.

Adam Melnyk has been with the DOAP Team in Calgary for 13 years, helping clients who suffer with addictions issues. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

"It makes a lot of sense, when an individual has an option to come with us or go with a police officer, 99 per cent of the time they're going to choose to go with us," said Melnyk.

"That kind of social response helps build relationships with individuals dealing with addiction issues and homelessness, where we can work on longer-term support for them and get them to a better place overall. It might seem like small steps but those small steps lead into larger ones."

Available 24-hours a day

Clients contact the team through a cellphone, which is available 24-hours a day.

"We probably get 80 to 90 calls [per day] that we deal with," said Melnyk, noting that translates into around 50 transports a day for the team, which uses a recognizable, dark-coloured van with a DOAP Team logo on the side.

"Some people might even call as a resource, with questions around accessing services."

Albert Beaverbones, 29, uses the DOAP Team's services. He arrived in Calgary about six months ago from the Rocky Mountain House area, having fled domestic violence. He also lost his mother last year.

"It brings me joy of not being cold," he said. "A safe ride here and there where I need to go quick, so I don't have to walk."

The DOAP Team can be reached at 403-998-7388.