Manitoba

Selkirk homeless shelter's doors close for January because of lack of volunteers

A homeless shelter in Selkirk, Man., is looking for volunteers after it had to shut down this month because it didn't have enough staff.

Shelter chair says numbers, need for shelter has dropped off in community

If you want to volunteer, you can get an application at Selkirk's Memorial Hall. (Google Street View)

A homeless shelter in Selkirk, Man., is looking for volunteers after it had to shut down this month because it didn't have enough staff.

René Gauthier, the chair of the soup kitchen that runs St. Francis Place homeless shelter, says he and another volunteer pulled at least two 13-hour overnight shifts a week at the shelter throughout December before deciding to close its doors for the month of January.

"After a while, it gets you down. You get tired and you know, it's not healthy," he said.

He's hoping to find at least nine new volunteers — preferably female, to keep a man and woman on staff at all times — before the end of the month.

If he doesn't, the shelter won't open in February and could close for good, he said.

"If we can't, then therefore we cannot safely protect our volunteers, having two people on staff, a male and a female, and that's very important," he said. "And then we'll have to shut down, unfortunately."

The shelter opened four years ago, Gauthier said.

The number of clients using the shelter have been dropping in recent months, he said, and he's not convinced the community needs a shelter right now.

"To be honest with you, I don't think there is a need [for the shelter], because we've done what we had to do; we looked after the crisis at that time," he said. "Hopefully it's solved forever."

In December, the shelter saw about 23 people a night, he said, and nobody at all for the last few nights of the year. He guessed that only about half of the clients are homeless; the rest of them have homes elsewhere and are using it as a "hostel," he said.

"It's very discouraging and it's frustrating, and then we say, 'What am I doing here?'" he said.

But Gauthier still wants to open the shelter again in February.

If you want to volunteer, you can fill out an application at Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen in Memorial Hall at 368 Jemima St. in Selkirk, about 35 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

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