SL homeless shelter helps 70 in first two months

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

The Slave Lake homeless shelter has helped 70 individuals in the first two months of being open.

It opened on November 7, 2023 in a double-wide skid-shack on the Slave Lake fire hall property in northwest Slave Lake. This is the second year in this location, but it is temporary.

In the next month or two, consultation will start on a permanent location, says Town of Slave Lake Mayor Frankie Ward. The town has identified five potential locations for a permanent shelter.

In the meantime, people experiencing homelessness in Slave Lake can get help at the shelter.

Some spend the night and others just come for meals or to do laundry, says Ayo Olowofela, shelter manager. One of the clients comes for meals, but doesn’t spend the night because the shelter can’t accommodate his two dogs.

From November, the shelter served 200 breakfasts, 173 lunches, and 231 suppers, for a total of 604 meals. In December, the number increased to 964 meals – 293 breakfasts, 278 lunches, and 393 suppers. The shelter has breakfast food on hand, and has contracts with some local restaurants for lunch and supper. One of these is soup and bannock from the Sawridge truck stop and another is lunches from Soul Full at Northern Lakes College.

The first 41 clients registered in November. A further 28 in December, and from Jan. 1 to 4, one new client was added. Not all of the clients use the shelter at once.

With a mild winter, some are staying in tents in the community, says Olowofela. Others go to surrounding communities for a few weeks.

The Town of Slave Lake is running the shelter with money from the provincial government. It is funded for 20 beds, but can house up to 30 by fire regulations.

The number of people using the shelter varies. The night of January 3, 17 people slept at the shelter.

Over the last two months, the average number of people staying overnight has been 14. In November, clients slept at the shelter a total of 223 times. In December, they slept at the shelter 434 times.

There has been some type of homeless shelter in Slave Lake in the winter since about 2014. This is the first year that Slave Lake has had funding for a 24-hour shelter, which will continue past the winter.

With the grant, the town bought the skid-shack and 29 new six inch wide mattresses.

The new mattresses are similar to what you would have on a bunk-bed, but they are put on the floor. This is an improvement over the thinner mats, which were used in the past.

However, the shelter is still a mat program – with all clients sleeping in one big area – women on the left and men on the right.

Of the 70 people registered at the shelter, 30 are women and 40 are men. In December, two of these people died in Slave Lake outside of the shelter – one man and one woman.

Details on how the woman died have not been released.

The RCMP investigated the man’s death.

Police arrived on the scene at 5:50 a.m. on Monday, December 4, says a December Leader article. The man was 61-years-old and died in a tent with fire damage in one of the homeless encampments. The RCMP ruled it as likely not suspicious.

Since opening, there have been no overdoses in or near the shelter, says Olowofela. The clients are not allowed to drink or do drugs in the shelter.

The shelter will accept people who are “kind of intoxicated,” adds Olowofela. They are encouraged to sleep it off. If they are highly intoxicated, staff contact the RCMP.

“The RCMP have been so helpful,” says Olowofela. “So far, we’ve not had any serious, serious incidents.”

The shelter has also received support from the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre. People wanting to donate to the homeless can do it through the Friendship Centre, as the homeless shelter doesn’t have the staff or space for donations.

Te homeless shelter drives people to the Friendship Centre on Mondays and Wednesdays for showers. By mid-January, the shelter should have a shower installed.

The shelter is open 24 hours a day seven days a week. Each shift has two staff, a shelter worker and security. The space is quite small, but the shelter is starting to help people with some basic needs beyond food and shelter.

When he has time, Olowofela will transport people to doctors appointments, to the pharmacy etc. Staff are also helping people apply for Blue Cross, to get identification, bank accounts, etc. They have also issued three or four residency letters, which provide people with an address for their applications to Alberta Supports, etc.

“We plan to do more, once we have a permanent site,” says Olowofela.

Ayo Olowofela
Slave Lake’s temporary homeless shelter, on Jan. 4. Seventeen people had used it the night before.

Share this post

2 thoughts on “SL homeless shelter helps 70 in first two months

    1. Probably more like forty years. Back in the day, the government of Alberta wouldn’t kick in any money to help the MITAA Centre. They told the board members to “go out and fundraise, with bingos and raffles” to raise money to operate.

      At one point, the government people told the board “You can’t be letting people off the street sleep there for the night. You aren’t running a hotel.” The executive director shot back, “So what are we supposed to do? Tell people to go get drunk and then we can put you up? We are trying to help them. Not make it worse.”

      Lots of well-paid, silly people in government.


Post Comment