YWCA Stepping Stones Shelter to reopen Wednesday

Daily Herald File Photo Stepping Stones Shelter.

The YWCA Prince Albert Stepping Stones Shelter will reopen on Wednesday at the Exhibition Grounds, thanks to a funding partnership with Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) and Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC).

YWCA Prince Albert CEO Donna Brooks said the reopening could not come at a better time for those who struggle to find a place to stay in Prince Albert.

“Absolutely we need it,” Brooks said.

Brooks explained that there is the Central Avenue Shelter for Women Children and Youth and the Our House Shelter for adult Men and Women. The Stepping Stones Shelter provides access for those who cannot get into Our house or Central Avenue.

“Heat is as bad as cold, (and) this kind of heat is very bad for sure,” she added.

The new shelter will offer people something during the summer much like what was offered during the winter.

“It means that the people that don’t have a place to go during the summer will now have a place to go overnight. They will be able to have access to showers, food, a change of clothes and a safe place to sleep,” Brooks said.

“We are so grateful for the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan and PA Grand Council, because that is how we were able to reopen it, Brooks added.

The shelter will operate at that location until Oct. 15 when the Cold Weather Shelter in the basement of Our House is slated to reopen.

The PAGC and MN-S provided enough funding to keep the shelter open from July 14 to Oct. 15. By mid-October, Brooks said they’ll be able to reopen the cold weather shelter in the basement of Our House. That shelter will remain open for the 2021-22 winter.

The Stepping Stones Shelter was created as a cold weather shelter during the past winter because the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the Our House basement shelter from reopening.

Our House had space for roughly 12 people in close quarters, which was not ideal for preventing the spread of COVID-19. The Stepping Stones Shelter opened in November, 2020 with 20 beds and addressed the need for a safer overnight shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness. Federal funding through Reaching Home made that move possible. Brooks said they tried to keep it open, but without success.

“We have been lobbying the province for a long time to provide money for year-round funding for that shelter, but they have never come through with any of that, really, so we had to close at the end of April,” she explained.

“There is still a huge need,” she added. “There are people all over the place that are homeless.”

The shelter provides services for those staying overnight including laundry services, meals provided by Prince Albert Grand Council, showers and a safe place to sleep while distanced from others. Those who come to stay are also offered referrals to YWCA Prince Albert’s Homeward Bound program to move them rapidly into housing.

The Stepping Stones Shelter will be opening after all of the provincial COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, however mandatory masking, COVID-19 screening, and other safety measures will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

The Stepping Stones Shelter will officially reopen at 8 p.m. Wednesday.