Forging ahead with construction to meet their September deadline, the Strathmore Overnight Shelter (SOS) just defeated an onerous hurdle, as a result of thousands of dollars worth of donated manpower and materials that cut the upwards-of-$100,000 cost to nearly half.
Volunteers were praised at a barbecue held last weekend, especially the Alberta-Saskatchewan-based company Legacy Fire Protection, which saved the non-profit society $9,000 in installation, consulting and engineering plans, and using their connections to reduce the final cost of a sprinkler system and a fire suppression system to $60,000. “We’ve got an amazing team of people who are centred on certain core values and they wanted to be a part of it,” said Carl Pollard, owner of Legacy Fire Protection.
“With homelessness, there are a lot of varying reasons. There are vulnerable people in society and they need community support. I think we’re fortunate that we’re in the industry that we are and have an opportunity to provide for our families. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, they’re in your community, so turning a blind eye doesn’t solve the problem.”
Due to space limitations, Pollard had to turn more volunteers away but said he had a large number of workers eager to help on the project.
The requirement of a sprinkler system threw a wrench into the initial plans of Strathmore’s first ever overnight shelter – a result of changes to the Alberta Fire Code that were implemented in 2014, a year after the Harvest Healing Centre Church was constructed.
With the help of community members, volunteers and a board – which is expected to grow to nine members in the near future – countless hours have been spent to ensure the shelter’s proposed September opening date.
Coming together for shelter
“It is a testament to that core group understanding that there was a need and that they’d do whatever was necessary to carry it through to completion,” said Town of Strathmore Councillor Denise Peterson, a member of the Strathmore Overnight Shelter board.
“The main thing was providing a place for people who didn’t have one. I watched them move in these incremental steps whenever they had to, whether it was meeting code or finding resources or finding people to execute whatever had to be done and they just did it. It’s unlike any other committee I’ve ever sat on in my life.”
One of the challenges facing the construction was fundraising the $60,000. Once Harvest Healing Church Centre Pastor Elizabeth Karp, a member of the Strathmore Overnight Shelter board, put forth the need to acquire the money, a cheque for $30,000 was slipped under her door only a week later, and the following morning she received a phone call from someone wanting to donate another $30,000. With a death linked to exposure in the fall, Karp said the need exists year-round.
“It’s really a miracle, and the community has just come together and worked together, including Siksika Nation which has extended services to us that’s never been done before,” Karp said. “Surprisingly even this time of year there’s been people who have been calling and asking if they can stay in our parking lot until it opens. The economy is still tough, people have lost their jobs, they’ve lost everything. It’s a beginning, you have to start somewhere.”
The shelter will provide two rooms with five beds each, along with men’s, women’s and handicapped washroom facilities. Over the next three weeks, the facility will undergo the completion of the installation of the sprinkler system and a fire suppression system. The only things remaining following the installation is manual labour in the form of framing a room and showers upstairs, getting the fire monitor, hiring and training staff, and checking the security system.
The shelter will be able to house a total of 10 individuals at a time, for a maximum of five nights. The society places emphasis on connecting the individuals with available resources in the community and is in communication with Siksika Nation in regards to utilizing some of their expertise and services.
The volunteer barbecue was held on July 19 at the Harvest Healing Centre Church.
The Strathmore Overnight Shelter is expected to open its doors at the end of September.
By Miriam Ostermann, Times Associate Editor