The news that Slave Lake’s overnight homeless shelter program had ground to a halt prompted an encouraging response from the community. In a few days of fundraising, over $11,000 was donated to get it back on the rails.
“That’s almost two months,” says program coordinator Barb Courtorielle. How much it costs to run the program for that long, in other words. And after that?
“I’m going to keep fundraising,” she says. “I’m sending letters out. I’m looking for some grants, too.”
The Mat Program (so named because the clients sleep on mats) started three years ago, via the efforts of mostly the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre, plus a lot of volunteer effort, plus donations from the community, plus something called an ‘Urban Partnership’ grant.
“That doesn’t exist anymore,” Courtorielle says.
The program ran for two winters in the basement of the old St. Peter’s Ecumenical Church. A year ago it transferred to the Friendship Centre, where space was available. When certain issues arose in the past few months it became apparent the program wasn’t going to re-commence at the beginning of November as expected. That’s when Courtorielle was called back in to see what she could do. The word went out, a fundraising breakfast was organized, and several local companies and individuals stepped up quickly with donations.
Leading the way was SL Ford with $6,500. Others included Whitecap Motors, Metis Nation of Alberta Zone 5, Nelda Armstrong, Century 21, Alberta Psychological Services and Pro-Blast. That all came to about $9,500.
The breakfast, held on Nov. 4, had a great community response, with about 130 people showing up to the Friendship Centre for pancake and more.
The event overall raised $2,288 – $1,040 of it from the food, $703 from a donation jar at the event, $545 from a gift basket raffle and $300 more from a cheque somebody presented at the event.
Armed with all those donations, Courtorielle has been making arrangements to re-open the Mat Program in its former location in the southeast part of town.
“They converted this into office space,” she says, indicating the area of the Friendship Centre where the program was housed last winter.
Asked what the clients of the shelter were doing in the meantime, Courtorielle says she hears some may be sleeping in tents; others are probably holing up in any warm spot they can find, whether they are breaking rules or not. Others, she says, are probably able to find temporary sleeping quarters in people’s homes.
The program will only survive for the season if further fundraising is successful. Courtorielle urges anyone willing to make a donation to call or visit the Friendship Centre. The phone number is 780-849-3039.