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Calgary Transit shuttles help hundreds find shelter during frigid weather

Outreach volunteers offer help to the homeless on a -20 C night in Calgary. (File: Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press) Outreach volunteers offer help to the homeless on a -20 C night in Calgary. (File: Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)
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Officials with a multi-year pilot project that helps Calgary's homeless find shelter during blasts of cold weather say the initiative is paying dividends.

According to the City of Calgary, nearly 200 people were transported to emergency shelters in Calgary Transit shuttles in the past week as part of the Coordinated Community Extreme Weather Response program. There have been approximately 600 trips made since the end of November.

The four-year pilot program is led by the Calgary Homeless Foundation and the city committed $2.3 million to the intitiative from its Community Safety Investment Framework fund.

As part of the program, transit peace officers and Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) team members identify Calgarians in need of reprieve from the cold, and Calgary Transit shuttles then ferry them to emergency shelters.

"LRT stations are not appropriate places to seek shelter because they do not have the necessary amenities like beds, potable water or restrooms, nor do they have the resources to support peoples' wellbeing," said Will Fossen, deputy chief of transit public safety.

"Our city's shelters have been operating at around 75 per cent capacity so far this winter. Demand increases during extreme weather conditions, but they have enough space to accommodate everyone that needs it."

Anyone who encounters a person in need of help should contact the DOAP team at 403-998-7388 or call 911 if the person is non-responsive or in serious distress.

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