Like it or not, warming centre is essential for the community


Morningstar Mission executive director Kevin Alkenbrack didn’t’t mince words when talking about the issue of visible homelessness last fall.

Heading into winter, there was no doubt whatsoever the problem was going to get worse-the real question was how much worse would it get.

Data tracked during the warming centre season, which ran from Nov. 26 to April 13, provided some kind of quantification. Based on their numbers, the amount of people who sought out over night shelter at the warming centre was more than doubled compared to the final numbers collected this time last year.

While it’s nice that those people had somewhere safe to spend a night if they so chose, the fact that number skyrocketed is certainly no reason to celebrate.

No matter one’s opinion of the warming centre, there’s no denying they provide an essential service. There are some who would rather not have a shelter in town. Get rid of the shelter and the tents scattered throughout the bushes in town will soon disappear as well-at least, that’s what some think. If ignored long enough, some other municipality will swoop in, build a shelter and anyone experiencing homelessness will sever all ties to the community they call home and flock to that town.

Talking to those who actually work with those facing homelessness on a daily basis however, that’s not how it works. People without shelter don’t come to town because the shelter is here. It’s actually quite the opposite-the shelter exists because people are already here in need of a warm bed. Simply ignoring human beings living outside in the winter months isn’t going to make the problem go away. Not to mention it should be a basic human decency to want to help those who are down and in need of compassion from their neighbours to get them through a difficult time. Regardless of how they found themselves in their situation, they are still humans and deserve to be treated as such. A lot of people are just one or two bad months away from some very serious financial troubles. No one should have to choose between food or rent-but the very sad reality is thousands of Canadians face that conundrum on a monthly basis. Odds are most people know someone but they may not even be aware.

If the compassionate angle isn’t enough then perhaps looking at it this way will get the point across: people need shelter and food to survive. When those things aren’t readily available, survival instinct will push people to go to extreme lengths to find the essentials. Dealing with the aftermath of that is far more costly than being proactive.

Fortunately the staff at Morningstar Mission have taken on this incredible challenge. While others talk about what should be done, they’re actually providing real solutions. Agree or disagree with their methods, they’ve stepped up to the plate and have helped hundreds of people who had literally no where else to go. For that we all owe them-whether we’ve used the service or not-a debt of gratitude.

-Adam Prudhomme

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