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Lac La Biche men's shelter braces for another COVID winter

Out of the Elements continues to help the less fortunate

LAC LA BICHE - Continuous COVID outbreaks in and around Lac La Biche County and inside the walls of the Out of the Elements Men’s Shelter over the past several months have forced the facility to reduce occupancy and group services. And those aren’t changes shelter officials want to make as the temperatures turn chilly.

There are rapid testing program available that can remove the occupancy restrictions — but the outbreaks continue to push the shelter back.

When Alberta’s rapid testing program became available in the fall, vulnerable populations and essential services could test symptomatic and unvaccinated clients in order to operate. The free program, says the acting board chair for the shelter Skylar Harpe, would assist the shelter’s COVID response, occupancy space and shared amenities again, but when an outbreak alert is issued at the shelter, access to the facility is significantly affected.

“The outbreak status only allows six out of eight beds available to be occupied each night—according to Alberta Health Services (AHS) and federal health COVID rules.”

To further compound issues, winter is approaching and the Lakeland Out of the Elements Shelter Society is in need of crucial clothing, food and hygiene supplies for the long season, says Harpe.

“It’s not just the six-beds overnight. People are always in and out of the building during the day who swing by to eat, take a shower and then they’re on their way. It’s a lot of mouths to feed.”

In the meantime, they are thankful for the provincial daily rapid tests and results for clients, as well as, the Lac La Biche and District Chamber of Commerce for providing rapid tests for staff members, she says

Harpe told Lakeland This Week, the organization is hopeful that restrictions will ease to in order better provide crucial services.

“We have usually had a full house with all the beds taken … (fortunately) there has never been a situation yet where someone has been turned away.”

But we may not be so lucky when the temperatures are freezing and the homeless population requires the space, she says.

Donations Needed 

Recently, funding donations  provided by Cenovus Energy will allow facility officials to purchase winter clothing and supplies, while a second grant from TC Energy will provide food and hygiene products.

However, with the chilly weather, the shelter estimates the cost for food alone for clients will cost roughly $2000 a month let alone individual shower and health supplies, says Harpe.

“Hygiene products, travel size or individual products would be needed. There are extra costs with stuff like that … covid made a lot of changes that have been difficult."

Harpe is optimistic, she says, the Bonnesville housing plan that Lac La Biche County and the Métis Nation (MNA) is establishing in the near future for the houseless population will hopefully provide more safe spaces.

How to help

Currently, the shelter has a community raffle—sponsored by MNA Vice President Jason Ekeberg— where the winner will receive a framed photo of Edmonton Oilers Captain Connor McDavid’s accompanied by an official NHL score sheet.

Tickets are available for purchase at the Lakeland Out of the Elements Shelter Society on 10150 104 Street from 8 am to 11 am for $5 each until November 15.

A live stream on the shelter’s Facebook page will announce the winner shortly after.

About the Author: Rahma Dalmar

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