The Wheatland Crisis Society (WCS) and Strathmore Overnight Shelter are reporting significantly increased numbers in the local homeless population and clients, respectively, from last year. 

Per a document released by the WCS, three new clients were taken in by the Overnight Shelter during the January-March time frame. By October to December, this metric had increased to 24 new clients.

In total, the Strathmore Overnight Shelter recorded 4,664 client stays over the course of the year. The metric observed stays increased from 970 in the first quarter, to over 1,100 in each subsequent quarter. 

“There definitely were increasing numbers. There is a lack of funding for people to even be able to live on their own. Everything is expensive. Rent is expensive,” said Elizabeth Karp, executive director of the Strathmore Overnight Shelter. “All of a sudden, I saw the majority of people in the shelter being over 50 years old and who were in their senior years. It changes the dynamics of everything in that way.”

Client stays at the Overnight Shelter were recorded to be highest between April and September, which the WCS indicated may suggest a higher demand for services during the spring and summer.

Karp added historically speaking, autumn and the months leading into winter were the busiest times for the overnight shelter. As spring came along and the weather warms, more people were sleeping outside.

“The impact (of increased use) is financial. It costs us more money (to operate). The more people who are in, the more it costs,” explained Karp. “We have a cap of up to 20 who are allowed in (the overnight shelter) as well, so we cannot take any more than that at any one time.”

Additionally, Karp said the more people who are occupying the space, the more difficult it becomes to manage.

“We deal with addictions and mental illness and all of those things. It is difficult for people to function in their own little worlds when they are having to be around so many other people,” said Karp.

Ultimately, the goal of the Overnight Shelter is to assist their clients in once again reaching stability and independence. Karp explained the goal is for clients to not require their services for longer than three months.

The Overnight Shelter is currently examining how best to approach operating fundraisers such as a 50/50 raffle, as well as engaging in Canada Day markets. Ultimately, Karp said the facility simply is in need of funding.

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 12, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Strathmore Times   Strathmore, Alberta

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