Uniting to address challenges of meeting basic needs during extreme weather - United Way Alberta Capital Region

Uniting to address challenges of meeting basic needs during extreme weather

January 12, 2024

Downtown Edmonton during a winter sunset. ADobe Stock
Adobe Stock Photo.

There has been a lot in the news recently about the growing number of people facing economic barriers to safe and affordable housing. Addressing the safety concerns around houseless encampments has increased our collective awareness of the complexity of the situation our community is experiencing. It is evident that our community cares very much about each other and finding the best way forward for everyone.  United Way is committed to being part of the solution, as we work toward ensuring no one in our community is left behind.

Working together to amplify impact

Supporting frontline agencies: One way we create impact is by providing funding for services they deliver and do so with the flexibility to use the funding where it is needed most within their agency to meet evolving needs. We also increase community understanding of system barriers and coordinate strategic initiatives for long-term impact.  United Way’s role involves collaborating with agency partners such as the Bissell Centre, Operation Friendship Society, Youth Empowerment & Support Services (YESS), Boyle Street Community Services, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Edmonton, and many others in a variety of ways.

Addressing urgent needs: Some of our actions address emergent needs to respond to challenges, like the current cold snap. We are actively calling for warm winter wear and monetary donations to meet the demand through Coats for Kids and Families. As well, 211 Alberta, a service United Way delivers in partnership with CMHA Edmonton and Distress Centre Calgary, provides navigation to supports that address a wide range of needs. Their role in Crisis Diversion alongside REACH Edmonton is essential in keeping people safe and warm during cold snaps. And 211’s insights into unmet needs are critical for us all to understand where demands are greatest, and the current gaps that exist at any point in time. 

Strengthening the social sector: We also work with and alongside multiple partners that create the system of social supports. Specifically related to supporting people experiencing barriers to housing, we would like to highlight and share appreciation for the work of REACH Edmonton and Homeward Trust who provide essential leadership for a collaborative response to making Edmonton safer and working toward ending homelessness. We have many social service agencies doing incredible work and providing the services and resources our community members need. They all deserve our appreciation and support to do the critical work they do every day. We all partner with the City of Edmonton toward achieving the goals of the Community Safety and Wellbeing strategy. 

This isn’t to spotlight the work United Way is doing, but to say that it takes all of us working together to address immediate needs and create long-term system solutions. We invite you to consider what role you can play or what support you can offer as we address these challenges together. Your compassion and dedication to being part of the solutions are invaluable, especially during these challenging times.

Edmonton’s extreme weather response

The extreme temperatures make the situation of supporting unhoused people even more urgent. The City of Edmonton has activated their extreme weather response plan. This initiative is crucial for ensuring the safety of vulnerable Edmontonians during this period. The response will be in effect from Monday, January 8 at noon, until Thursday, January 18 at noon. It may be extended if necessary. 

Key elements of this response include: 

  • The opening of 50 temporary shelter spaces at the City-funded Al Rashid Mosque in North Edmonton. 
  • Operating three Edmonton Transit Service routes from 11:00 PM to 5:30 AM to facilitate transportation of individuals to shelters.  
  • Making City facilities, such as recreation centres and libraries, available as warm-up locations for the public. 

Help keep our community warm

If you observe someone in distress or who needs assistance getting somewhere warm, call 211 + press 3 to reach the 24/7 Crisis Diversion line. For emergencies, dial 911.  

Your donations of warm winter gear to Coats for Kids and Families are greatly appreciated and can be made at designated drop-off locations. Currently, there’s an urgent need for men’s coats. Your financial contributions play a crucial role in enabling us to meet this need efficiently. We tend to receive fewer donations of men’s coats compared to those for women and children.