Family Centre looks to fill in gaps

Sam Odrowski

The Family Centre, which opened 24 hours a day last winter to ensure homeless people could escape 40-below weather, is looking to fill in the gaps and stay open on the nights the warming centre can’t operate, as it gets colder.

“Because they’re only open four nights a week, if it gets cold again we are prepared to open for the other three,” said Traci Lockman of the Family Centre.

She told the Times they don’t want to be working overnight but if there’s nowhere else for those without homes to get warm, it’s a service they will provide.

So far this winter, the Family Centre has already handed out around 10 sleeping bags and six sets of blankets to individuals in need who are sleeping outside.

Lockman noted that the Family Centre would like to work with the homeless committee to find hours of operation that work for everybody.

Last year, the warming centre was open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. which caused issued because those who accessed the centre would be out in the cold until the Family Centre could open, usually at 9 a.m.

“With the weather getting colder, what we’re concerned with is our hours are only from 10-4 right now–or 11-6 depending on who we have for volunteers,” she said.

“It would be nice if we could work with DSSAB. We have asked them if they could go 9-9, because we’re volunteers. We have kids to get off to school, we have stuff we have to do so it’s hard for us to be here at 7 a.m.”

“We just feel bad for people who have to leave at 7 and wait three hours for us to open,” Lockman added.

“We’ll try to be here a little earlier as the weather gets colder.”

Extra space for Christmas

For certain days this month, the centre is also renting out an additional space at the Volunteer Bureau, where they are currently set up.

On Dec. 6, 7, 13, and 20-26, additional space is being rented and there will be fun activities running each day such as tree decorating, Christmas decoration making, baking cookies, and card games.

The Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen will also be preparing a Christmas lunch there on Dec. 20 and since there’s no community dinner happening on Dec. 25, one will be held at the Family Centre on that day as well.

“Our Christmas dinner is not going to be as big as there’s and we’re not going to be doing ‘Meals on Wheels,’ it’s for the people that usually come here on a daily basis,” explained Monica Sus of the Family Centre.

Part of the reason why the Family Centre rented out additional space at the Volunteer Bureau was in anticipation of having to stay open overnight on nights when the warming centre isn’t operating.

“Right now we are just on the verge of hoping to get enough money to rent it for January as well,” Sus noted.

“We are looking for donations because with more donations than we would be able to open February and we would be able to be open in March.”

The Family Centre has enough money to rent their space at the Volunteer Bureau through the winter but additional donations will allow them to rent out a bigger space and provide better service to those in need.

“Last year, it was kind of more about getting set up and surviving because we fell into it. This year, we kind of know what to expect, so we’re looking at bringing in these activities,” Lockman remarked.

“We find that now the weather’s cold, people aren’t just coming to get something to eat and leaving, people are staying all day now because it’s cold.”

Lockman said from her conversations with the individuals who access the centre, at least every second person is self-identifying as homeless.

She told the Times everyone who they serve at the Family Centre is treated with respect, regardless of their circumstances.

“We want everyone who walks through the door to feel like they’re welcome here, we make sure we remember their names, they know when they walk in that they’re welcome and we’re happy to see them,” Lockman remarked.

Financial challenges

The Family Centre, meanwhile, is facing financial challenges as they solely rely on donations. And since relocating to the Volunteer Bureau in June, there has been less support.

“Since we moved over here, we kind of feel like we’re out of sight, out of mind, we no longer get any monetary donations,” she noted.

In the giving month of December, said Sus, any donations would be greatly appreciated and go a long way for helping the less fortunate in the community.

She noted that the centre has more than enough food, as many businesses around town have helped greatly but monetary donations are very much needed as well as mitts, socks, coats, and boots.

“We are feeding the community right now but rent, without a roof over our head we cannot keep this going past April,” Sus explained.

Going forward, she said she wants to ensure everyone in the community has the merriest Christmas possible.

“We really encourage people too, during the Christmas season to find out what we have going on especially on the weekends and come and join us, and have a cup of coffee with us,” Lockman enthused.

Anyone looking to volunteer or donate can contact Sus at 271-2839.

“When someone comes here to volunteer, we know if they come with the right attitude, they’re going to have a good time,” she lauded.