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New shelter spaces for women aim to tackle capacity issues for the Mustard Seed


The Mustard Seed is opening 40 new shelter spaces for women only with help from the province on Monday.

At a news conference early Monday morning, the beds were made available right away.

“That means that we should have enough emergency capacity to be able to deal with winter inside both of our largest cities, which will free up some time for us to actually focus on long term housing solutions,” said Jason Nixon, minister of seniors, community and social services.

The 40 spaces are funded through $762,000 in funding from the province and nearly $100,000 in start up costs.

It allows women experiencing homelessness to access 78 shelter spaces in Calgary, including 18 at the Salvation Army-Wagner shelter and 20 operated by YWCA Calgary.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek says she recalls speaking to the Mustard Seed about the demand for spaces for women, after it saw an increase of 50 percent in the last year, of women looking to access the Mustard Seed shelter.

“There was a lot of women seeking shelter space,” said Gondek.

“A lot of women from outside the province that were coming to Calgary hoping that they would be able to find something here.”

The Mustard Seed is hopeful it can offer wraparound services for these women to eventually find affordable housing.

It says it has been operating at full capacity at its Foothill shelter of 370 mats all summer, which is quite unusual.

“Typically we would have maybe 250 to 275 average in the summer,” said Mustard Seed CEO Stephen Wile.

“We are over 370 and we are turning away anywhere between 10 and 30 people a night. It is a mixed shelter. Our expectation is that some of the women who use that shelter on a daily basis will likely transfer to this shelter and it'll also provide opportunity for us to have a little more capacity in the Foothills shelter.”

Nixon says the new spaces opening will help the city deal with peak demand during emergency situations.

“In Calgary last year, we were at about 80 per cent emergency shelter capacity through the year,” said Nixon.

“There's very few times where we broke that 80 per cent mark. It's something that department watches every day, and we're pretty confident that the 1700 plus spaces that we've created in the City of Calgary will get us through that emergency measure.”

The Alberta NDP says that while it's good to see the provincial government paying attention to homeless shelters, more needs to be done as cold weather sets in.

"The rapidly growing need for more shelter spaces is a clear indication that the housing crisis in our province is dire and worsening, and the UCP are continuing to ignore their responsibility in it," said Janis Irwin, housing critic in a statement.

“The absence of leadership and lack of care the UCP are paying to this important issue must end today." Top Stories

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