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City in need of day shelter: Saint Lawrence Centre officials

Grande Prairie is in need of a full-time day shelter. That’s what Saint Lawrence Centre Project Lead Jared Gossen says. He has asked city council to support the idea.

The Saint Lawrence Centre runs as a daytime warming shelter from October 1st to the end of March. In its first year of operation, Gossen says he saw around 30 people a day. During the opening day this year, 82 people came through the door. Gossen says right now the centre is struggling to deal with the increase.

“We used to be able to get by on one full-time staff, some volunteers and another part-time worker. That meant meaningful connection for the 30 some people that were coming through the door… we’re not able to provide that in a sense when so many bodies are coming through the door.”

The centre first opened in 2015 as a daytime drop-in centre working out of the Salvation Army Services Building. It was created to take in people between overnight and meal programs when they had nowhere else to go. As it began to see a spike in the number of users, the shelter was moved inside Rotary House. Now they are also running out of space there.

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“The increase that we see during the day they’re feeling at night as well. That’s a lot more people…Were in a bit of a crisis in terms of space and utilization of shelters.”

Gossen says the increase in people may have also lead to an increase in overdoses at the shelter and in the surrounding area. The first year it was open he says he saw one overdose and in the last 12 months he’s seen 44.

“Drug culture is shifting in Grande Prairie very seriously and whereas we might have seen a bit of a presence of opiates and meth, it’s an overwhelming presence of heroin and methamphetamines in the good number of people that come to drop in now. That’s taking its toll.”

The idea for city council to offer its support for a daytime drop-in centre will be brought to the next Community Living Committee meeting for further discussion.

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