Calgary considers where to shelter influx of homeless

Calgary organizations that help the homeless hope to have a new emergency shelter set up by November.

Calgary organizations that help the homeless hope to have a new emergency shelter set up by November.

Agency workers met with City of Calgary officials Thursday to discuss what to do with as many as 300 people who don't have a place to stay as the weather turns cold.

They saythere aren't enough shelter beds in Calgary due to the number ofpeople flooding into the city to look for work. Because of the province's super-heated economy, housing price have soared and the rental vacancy rate has dropped so low that even some people with full-time jobs have been sleeping in their cars or on mats in shelters.

The city is considering using vacant schools as temporary shelters or a city-owned building on 16 Avenue North that is the former home of a Brick furniture store.

"The shelter won't exist there after the spring," said Floyd Perras, the operations officer at the Mustard Seed Street Ministry.

"This is a very temporary thing but a very positive thing to make sure no one freezes to death this weekend."

Building to be torn down

Perras said an agency could run a shelter out of the former Brick store, despite the tight timeline.

"Things can happen if people decide to make it happen, so we are confident that people will see the urgency and move forward."

However, the bright red building is set to be demolished in April to make way for the widening of the street, which is part of the Trans-Canada Highway.

"As it exists, it's not set up to act as a shelter for 200 or 300 people in terms of washroom facilities and kitchen and so on. So there would be some significant costs," said Linda McLean, co-ordinator of Calgary Winter Response committee.

"If the building is going to be available for only a few months, do we reasonably spend that kind of money?"

McLean said the city also needs separate shelters to take care of families and of people who are drunk.

The Calgary Drop-In Centre where she worksis already turning away as many as 100 people a night, she said.