The executive director of L'association des Jeunes de la Rue in Sudbury says the city needs a wet shelter now that the Elgin Street Mission is scaling back overnight hours.

What is a wet shelter?

A wet shelter is for chronically homeless people with severe alcohol problems. At a wet shelter, small shots of alcohol can be given to the client to prevent the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Lise Senecal, who oversees the operation of shelters for young men and women, community outreach and transition programs, said it will take time to see how the roughly 20 people will cope with the loss of a warm place on winter nights — nights that don't meet the criteria for extreme cold.

Some people can stay in rented rooms, while others may seek out shelter beds. But Senecal said she is worried about the small number who can't stop drinking.

“If they want to access a shelter they might be refused because they're under the influence,” she said. “That's the portion of the population that worries me the most."

A wet shelter for hard-core addicts could help, she said. It’s a place that can dispense small shots of alcohol to the client to prevent the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

It's an idea that the co-ordinator for Shelters and Homelessness for the city has heard before — and one that could serve a small group of homeless who are turned away from shelters.

“It is a gap in our community,” Gail Spencer said. “We are absolutely considering and looking at the possibility of a wet shelter, it is one of the options that we're looking at.”

A sobering centre and intensive case management are other options the city is considering with its community partners for people who can no longer stay overnight at the Elgin Street Mission.