Imagine if you are speaking to a four year old child that just arrived at Inn from the Cold and the first thing they ask you is, “Can I have a bed?” That was the image that stayed with members of the Alberta’s Promise team as we toured Calgary’s Inn from the Cold Society, which operates as an agency of last resort for those children and their families who find themselves, literally, with no place else to go. Thanks to Charmaine Lyon, Donor Relations Associate with the Inn, we were given a behind-the-scenes look at the original and largest family homeless shelter in Alberta, and one of very few across Canada.
“At the Inn, we support homeless children and their families,” says Charmaine. “Our shelter allows us to keep families together, so they can support each other and be with each other in their time of need. We help kids gain a sense of stability and safety while the parents get back on their feet.” The programs and services offered by the Inn address both the immediate issue of homelessness as well as the long-term, root causes of homelessness, so that families become self-sustaining, and able to maintain permanent housing.
On any given night, almost 60 per cent of the guests at the Inn are children; from newborn babies and pre-school toddlers to school-age children and teens. While the kids are at school, the Inn works with parents to connect them with community agencies and programs that will help them regain their independence. From language training and job search help, to medical care and counseling, to an onsite Early Child Development program and parenting classes, the Inn works to ensure that clients receive not only a bed and a meal, but ‘shelter, sanctuary, and healing’.
“Many of our clients have had trauma in their life,” says Charmaine. “We see high numbers of women escaping domestic violence and family members exhibiting a variety of mental or physical health issues. We recognize how much courage it takes to ask for help. We go far beyond provision of shelter, food, and clothing. Our services also focus on the many supports needed to ensure children and their families begin the process of recovering their dignity, their self-worth, their independence, and their hope.“
Inn from the Cold has been serving the community for almost 20 years. Established by a network of faith-based volunteers in 1997, they came about because there were no shelters available for entire family units. With the backing of donors and community partnerships, the Inn moved into a 112-year-old building on the fringes of Calgary’s inner-city and became a 24/7, 365 days a year emergency family shelter.
Providing shelter, food preparation, and programming in a building more than a century old has had its challenges. Thanks to recent donations by Shaw Communications and Imperial Oil, clients at the Inn now enjoy a beautifully-renovated child development space, a refinished dining area, and an upgraded volunteer centre. Many other areas still require renovation to meet building codes and operational needs, including the main reception area, counselling rooms, and kitchen.
To support the work of Inn from the Cold Society or to sponsor a portion of the facility renovation, please contact Alberta’s Promise at [email protected] or 1-877-313-7500 and we’ll be happy to make the introduction.