Salvation Army calls for emergency shelter

(From the back) Andrea Lavallee, Dustin Merasty and Rosemarie Metz serve lunch Thursday at the Door of Hope. On the menu that day were muffins, beef vegetable soup and egg salad sandwiches. "We feed an average of 60 a day," Metz said. "For a lot of people, especially the single men, this is their main meal for the day."

By Ben Ingram

In a community like Meadow Lake where the weather can often be difficult to endure, the lack of an emergency shelter might surprise some.

It’s a glaring void in the city that Peter Eason of the Salvation Army has said he wants to fix, offering speculation that he may sell the organization’s church on Second Street West to finance such a development.

Henry Clarke of the Door of Hope comes face-to-face with this need on a regular basis.

“I’ve come to the end of the day here, 4 p.m. we close and it’s pouring rain outside. You close the door on these guys and you’re putting them out into the cold night,” he said. “There’s just nothing for them.”

According to Clarke, Meadow Lake used to have two emergency rooms, but they were priced at rates similar to a motel. While organizations like the Door of Hope and Native Urban Housing offer long-term, subsidized rooms for rent, there are no places to go for those who find themselves stranded on the street.

To make matters worse, the rental rooms are full.

“We can provide meals, clothes in an emergency,” Clarke said. “As far as the apartments are concerned, that’s a waiting list.”

The only short-term refuge the city offers is the Waskoosis Safe Shelter, one that caters exclusively to battered women and their children.

“There is a need,” Cecil Mistickokat, the manager of Waskoosis said. “We don’t take people that are stranded, we take women that are abused physically or emotionally.”

These women can use the service for up to six weeks. If they are looking for alternate arrangements but find affordable options in the city difficult to obtain, they may be allowed to stay longer.

“I hope they get a place for people that need emergency shelter,” she said, adding in the past she’s had to turn away men who were seeking shelter in the city with no place to go.

Eason’s plan is hardly concrete, but at the last Interagencies meeting, he expressed a desire to provide between four and six beds on an emergency basis, for time periods of up to a week. The hope is that during the short period of time, those in need can find more long-term arrangements.

Burlane Laliberte, the manager of Native Urban Housing, also agreed that emergency shelter in the city is a necessity.

“We have people inquiring, they need housing right away and we can’t fill that need,” Laliberte said. According to her, at any given time the organization has around 100 applications on file for its long-term, geared-to-income rental solutions.

“Homelessness is kind of an invisible problem,” she said. “You hear about it, but you don’t really see it.”

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