Mustard Seed opens up beds for homeless in Edmonton's Kinsmen Recreation Centre

More beds for Edmonton’s homeless have been opened now that The Mustard Seed’s south-side emergency shelter has expanded to set up in a river valley recreation facility.

The new shelter at the Kinsmen Sports Centre will accommodate 180 people, a major increase from the current 40 mats offered at the shelter on Whyte Avenue, the organization said Thursday in a news release.

“With this pandemic and recent economic shift, we expect more people coming through our doors seeking shelter and services,” said Dean Kurpjuweit, the Mustard Seed’s executive director.

The rec centre near the south side of the Walterdale Bridge has enough space to maintain recommended physical distancing while offering a warm respite to people who normally sleep rough, he said.

The new space, which is already operational, will be open daily from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. It cannot be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19.

ETS buses are dropping off homeless people at the EXPO centre several times a day, with 15 passengers allowed on a bus at one time. (Natasha Riebe/CBC)

Funding from the Alberta government was used to set up the new space. But Kurpjuweit said the organization needs help with ongoing operational costs and is looking for donations.

“A donation of just $35 covers one night’s stay at our shelter,” he said. “Thirty-five dollars not only provides someone in need with a mat, clean bedding and breakfast, but it also gives them a sense of security.”

A large homeless shelter set up at the Expo Centre was used by almost 500 people on its first day of operation earlier this week.

Susan McGee, the executive director of Homeward Trust, told CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM  that the efforts of smaller shelters are also a key part of the overall solution. 

“There’s a lot of other work going on in our community,” she said on Thursday. “Like we have for the last couple of weeks, we’ll continue to monitor, and if we need to make other decisions and look for other facilities then we will.

“But for now, we’re working really closely with shelters — overnight shelters for people who are asymptomatic — to co-ordinate between sites and to ensure that individuals can also get from a safe place in the evening to a safe place during the day.”

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