Due to the recent cold snap, the Saint Lawrence Centre in Grande Prairie has been busy. Project Lead Jared Gossen says he’s used to seeing 50 to 60 people a day but this winter its been closer to 70 to 100. Gossen says because of the extreme cold temperatures lately, the center has reached capacity.

“The space doesn’t manage that many people. So usually what that means is there’s a lot of people in and out. Now with the really cold weather, we’ll still be around 70 or 75 people a day but there’s not a lot of coming and going. For the most part, it’s kind of standing room only.”

Over the last few days, temperatures have ranged from minus 16 to minus 28 feeling more like minus 30 or so with the wind chill. Most of the people Gossen has seen lately frequently use the shelter to stay out of the cold.

“Every week there’s a few new faces but it seems that everybody who you might serve throughout the week is just kind of hanging out for longer… Even venturing out to go to the meal programs provided by the Friendship Centre and the Salvation Army, people tend not to go out when there’s the really cold weather.”

The Saint Lawrence Centre has worked out of the Rotary House since 2015. The centre runs a day time drop-in program while the Rotary House takes care of all nighttime activities. Gossen says the centre has been dealing with overcrowding for the last year. Despite that, he says people have really stepped up these last few days.

“Everybody really understands that we’re in this together, that we’re not able to go outside right now very easily. Everyone’s kind of pitching in doing some extra clean up and doing what they can to be understanding of folks who maybe are not having that good day. We haven’t had too many blow ups which is a win in our books.”

If anyone is looking to help out the shelter this winter, Gossen says they can always use socks and gloves. Those items can be dropped off at the front desk at Rotary House.