No Warming Room in 2012

Jennifer Thurbide

Red Lake’s Warming Room won’t be opening this winter due to a lack of funding say local representatives. Addressing questions related to the operation, which last year provided a warm place for homeless residents to go to during the day, Red Lake Area Emergency Shelter Manager Sandy Middleton said last week that the dollars used in 2011 to run the operation are not available.

“[The funding] came from the government for a diabetes type program and that can’t exist here because that service already exists in town,” explained Middleton who noted that the cost of staffing has increased significantly due to workplace legislation requiring duplicate staff on site. “Because we would need two staff members that would actually mean paying 8 hours of wages.”

Throughout much of the bitter cold in 2011, winter homeless residents spent the hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Living Hope Native Ministry where washroom facilities, personal hygene kits and a meal of some sorts was provided by shelter staff and volunteers.

The Emergency Shelter is no stranger to funding shortages operating mostly on grants and private donations. In 2011 a record $24,000 was given to the operation from two regional employers allowing the service to stay open most of the summer closing in August for what Board Members noted was staff recruitment and training.

Middleton says the operation continues to face a major funding hurdle as most federal and provincial funding sources are for programs, not operations making it difficult to pay staff and cover building costs. In the case of the warming room Middleton says “The message seems to be there is a lot of funding for programming but you still have to pay the staff somehow. There is not any funding that we can find for operations and there would be rent, there would be staff, and food to make a pot of soup or coffee.” The Manager notes calls supporting the service have been numerous and those able have been encouraged to look at something similar on a volunteer basis.

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