Inn from the Cold suspends community inn operations

Citing concerns about mental health, substance abuse and the safety of its volunteers, Inn from the Cold is suspending its community inn program.

Agency cites concerns about mental health, substance abuse and volunteer safety

Linda McLean, executive director of Inn from the Cold, said concerns about volunteer safety prompted the organization to halt its community inn program. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Calgary's Inn from the Cold will no longer shelter homeless, single adult men and women in community inns, the agency confirmed this week.

Linda McLean, the executive director of Inn from the Cold, said the inns cannot adequately respond to the needs of those clients. She said the decision was made because of growing security concerns for volunteers after reports of aggressive incidents triggered by mental health and substance abuse problems.

"The level of risk is not acceptable," McLean said. "It is far better to err on the side of caution, take a preventive step to transition those clients to specialized agencies that are equipped and staff appropriately to deal with that complexity."

The program, through which church and community group volunteers provided temporary shelter for homeless Calgarians, was created to help families, but recently sheltered about 15 single clients. Inn from the Cold continues to expand its family shelter program and is working to improve supportive housing for families.

"For many who spent a decade or more committing their hearts and minds and time to this, it's a huge sense of loss and we very much appreciate that," she said. 

The affected clients will still receive shelter and help from other social service agencies.

"It's very difficult to let go of something that has been the roots of an organization and we didn't make the decision lightly," McLean said.