A new program operated by Shelter House in Thunder Bay is officially up and running, just in time to get homeless people off of the street after a prolonged cold snap.

Shelter House Thunder Bay's Street Outreach Services program officially kicked off this weekend. The program is part of the cold weather pilot project, helping to get the homeless off of the street this winter.

thunder bay cold weather project van

The van at Shelter House in Thunder Bay is being used by the Street Outreach Services team, as part of the shelter's cold weather pilot project. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The program's co-ordinator said the first order of business is to educate the public and clients about the program.

"A lot of the staffs’ job is going to be going out to the community and introducing themselves,” Shelby Henderson said.

"They're going go to be going to the hospital, detox, city hall, a lot of grocery stores, a lot of downtown south core businesses and introducing themselves and letting people know what they do and giving out business cards."

Staff members are already aware of the many popular spots where the homeless gather, and will target those areas to help those in need.

Not a replacement for emergency services

While the service will help transport homeless people to places where they can get help, it also offers them coffee, food, blankets and medical supplies.

Offering up a transportation service is critical, Henderson said.

"Transportation is such a huge barrier in this city and I just think it's a great idea to bring the door to people that can't access services [so they] can actually get services."

Patty Hajdu

Shelter House executive director Patty Hajdu said support workers will be on the streets daily. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Shelter House executive director Patty Hajdu said support workers will now be on the street, daily, looking for those in need.

"They'll also be expected to go out to the various hot spots that we've already mapped out and see if there are people in those areas,” she said. “[They will] touch base with those people and see what they can do."

Hajdu said the ultimate goal is to bring the homeless out of the cold, and help keep them safe, however she said the service is not there to replace emergency services in any way.

"A big part of the beginning will be educating people … on what the scope of our practice is, what exactly we can achieve, what we can do, what is beyond our boundaries," Hajdu said.

"We will be educating the community about the fact that, if someone's at risk of their own safety or putting other people's safety at risk, that … the appropriate number to call is 9-1-1."

The program, which received preliminary support from Thunder Bay city council, will run for four months as a pilot project. Organizers are hoping to make the program a permanent one.