The organizers of the Warm Welcome shelter program have confirmed that it will be returning in late 2014 and early 2015, and they hope that it will be open for more dates than ever before.
But if it is to expand, the shelter will need more financial support.
In its first two years, Warm Welcome has been open from December 1 to March 31. Now they want to be open in mid-November, and remain open until the middle of April.
“Last year it was pretty cold in November, and a little bit in April (of this year) as well, but it was especially cold in November, and some of our clients really struggled last year,” said Estevan Salvation Army Lieutenant Brian Bobolo.
A lot of people asked the Warm Welcome organizers whether the shelter could be open in November, Bobolo said, thanks to the frigid temperatures that were recorded on many nights in November of 2013. The nighttime temperature dipped below -10 C 14 times that month.
“The limiting factor is funding,” said Bobolo. “We do pay for one person each night, the shelter supervisor, … just to ensure we have the personnel on hand, and that there’s a consistency in the administration in the program.”
But Bobolo says that as the program continues to expand, Warm Welcome wants to be there for people who are in need of shelter during the cold months of the year, including November.
In 2013-14, Warm Welcome was open seven days a week for the first time. It was located at the Salvation Army from Sunday to Tuesday, and at St. Paul’s United Church from Wednesday to Saturday.
The frigid temperatures in the southeast for much of last winter, combined with the program's nightly availability and growing profile in the community, resulted in more people using the shelter. They had up to six or seven visitors many night, and averaged close to five users over the course of four months.
They have yet to iron out all of the details for the upcoming year, but Bobolo expects that the shelter will continue to be offered each night of the week, and at the same locations.
In an effort to raise money for the shelter, and to create more awareness, Warm Welcome has a couple of events planned for Saturday, September 13.
The first is the BBQ for Belonging at the Southern Plains Co-op, starting all 11 a.m. Revenues from the barbecue will be used to fund the shelter for the upcoming year.
Then at 2 p.m., Warm Welcome will offer the Walk Against Homelessness, in an effort to build more awareness. It will begin at St. Paul’s and end less than four blocks away at the Salvation Army.
“During that time, walk participants will be have an opportunity to see what it’s like inside each shelter location, and they will learn what it’s like to struggle with housing security in Estevan,” said Bobolo.
“So we will be providing them with some important information, and telling them about what people face, and explaining to them what the program is all about.”
Bobolo said he hopes that the barbecue and the walk will also help Warm Welcome attract some new volunteers, as they did have some struggles trying to find people to help with the overnight shifts in the middle of the week in 2013-14.