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Shelter beds in Edmonton's Herb Jamieson Centre. ((CBC News))

Grande Prairie will likely turn a fire hall garage into an emergency shelter as booming Alberta communities struggle to find help for the homeless this winter.

Grande Prairie city council is expected to approve the makeshift solution Thursday in a bid to help new residents who have been camping or livingout of vehicles, many unable to find a home even though they are working.

Four families will be able to live in the garage, which will have a kitchen, bathrooms and camping trailers donated by a local company.

Katherine Fleming, a housing co-ordinator in the city, says the garage will provide much needed housing for desperate families this winter.

"It's going to allow them time to relax. They're going to be safe, and they're going to have an opportunity to think and to work on other things so that they can find their own place and find a real place to call home."

The population of Grande Prairie, about 450 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, is expected to reach about 56,000 by the end of this year, double the 1991 figure.

All of Grande Prairie's shelters are full and the city is trying to find another building it can convert into a warming centre.

Numbers up in Edmonton

Calgary and Edmonton are also seeing more homeless people on the streets this winter.

A count of Edmonton's homeless population released by the city Wednesday shows 2,600 people don't have a place to live, a 20 per cent increase from two years ago.

Organizations that work with the homeless say there aren't enough shelter beds because of the number of people flooding into those cities to look for work.

The province's super-heated economy has sent housing prices soaring and the rental vacancy rate has dropped so low that even some people with full-time jobs are homeless.

Calgary's warming centre full

In Calgary, officials with Mustard Seed say a temporary warming centre is alreadynear capacityjust days after it opened.

OnTuesday night 45 people used the facility, five less than the maximum.

Director Diana Schwenk said there might not be any room to expand, but right now there's enough room for those in need.

"From all reports the staff that are working with the people say its going good. We have coffee and stuff forpeople there and some people have stayed up all night. Some people will fall asleep and we have breakfast in the morning."

No decision on appeal of shelter permit

As part of an emergency winter plan, the City of Calgaryhas fast tracked a permit toconvert aformer Brickfurniture store in the northeast into a temporary shelter with 300 beds.

The warmingcentre will close when this shelter opens.

Manyneighbourhoodresidents are opposed to the shelter, which will be torn down in the spring to make way for aroad expansion.

John McDermid, the president of the Crescent Heights Community Association says he needs to review the approval and conditionsadded to ease residents' concerns before any decision can be made on whether or not to appeal within the next two weeks.