New daytime drop-in centre to provide safe, warm place for homeless people in downtown Brandon
Blue Door Project drop-in centre to open at 31A 9th St. this week
A new daytime drop-in centre in Brandon's downtown will offer a place to get out of the cold and relax during the winter for those who are homeless and others who need a place to warm up, access supports or use a washroom.
Ask Auntie, a program run through the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation, will open the centre — named the Blue Door Project — on Wednesday.
It will be open at 31A Ninth St. from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
"I think it's very important for people because there's not too many resources that are like this one in the community, especially with the pandemic going on," said Florence Halcrow, one of the "aunties" who offers mentorship and help to Indigenous girls and women through the Ask Auntie program.
"A lot of the resources are closed to the public. I think it's very important that the people in our community have togetherness and have a place to go to warm up and have the resources that they need."
Halcrow said the space will fill a gap when places such as the Samaritan House Safe and Warm Shelter, which is open from 7 p.m. to 11 a.m., are closed.
"I believe that the drop-in is needed all year round, but we were just fortunate enough to have a rental space available to us at this time."
The space in Brandon's downtown core, near the bus terminal, health services and Samaritan House, is "the perfect location," says Halcrow.
"In the building, we have a blue door that is soundproof — it's thick, it's beautiful. It has nice glass on it, and when you go behind that door, it's very peaceful and relaxing," she added.
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"It's a good place for people to relax and get the support that they need."
Halcrow said laundry services will be offered and other organizations will partner to offer other services.
Centre open in time for winter
In addition to mentorship for Indigenous youth, the Ask Auntie program also offers broader supports to people of all ages, such as help applying for birth certificates, health cards or other forms of identification.
The program officially launched in Brandon in March 2021.
Halcrow said the neighbourhood renewal corporation started working to offer more supports at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as some Indigenous people faced increased barriers to accessing services.
Aunties are an important part of Indigenous culture and tradition, she said.
"I feel blessed to be an auntie in the community, to be there for our people and to let them know that we are here for them, regardless of what their needs are," she said.
"We're not reinventing any wheels, but we are helping them access the resources that they need at that moment."
That includes the new drop-in centre, which Halcrow said is opening just in time for the coldest winter months.
"In past experience, we've had weather hitting –50 C and our people didn't have [anywhere] to go," she said. "I believe having a safe place for people to warm up and have a place to go 24 hours a day is very important."
She said the renewal corporation hopes to have an official grand opening for the space in mid-December.
With files from Stephanie Cram