New 24/7 Karis Centre women’s shelter ‘full every single night’

The Hope Mission Karis Centre is a 24/7 emergency shelter for women. As Laura Krause reports, they have experienced a steady increase in demand for its services and is consistently operating at full capacity.

Donna Kozak has been a resident at Hope Mission Karis Centre for women since it opened earlier this year.

She says she feels much more comfortable there than other shelters she’s stayed at.

“It’s just so much more private, it feels like your own personal space to have while you’re here,” Kozak said.

“This place, this one is really, really nice.”

The Karis Centre, a 24/7 emergency shelter that can serve up to 80 women at a time, provides wrap-around care and support services.

“The Karis Centre offers a very welcoming, safe place for women to receive not just emergency shelter, but services to receive housing and support connections to addiction treatment and recovery,” said Tim Pasma, the director of programs for homelessness at Hope Mission.

Outside the 24/7 Karis Centre women’s shelter on 107 Street. (Laura Krause, CityNews)

Since opening in February, the Karis Centre has experienced a steady increase in demand for its services and is consistently operating at full capacity.

According to Homeward Trust, 3,262 people were experiencing homelessness in Edmonton as of the end of May. Pasma says there has been a drastic increase in women on the streets since the pandemic.

“We were seeing probably 40, 50, 60 women at night, and now we see over 200 women a night in our shelters in Edmonton,” he said. “And so we really felt like we needed to provide more.

“We need to provide designated spaces. So we opened with 40 beds, and that was full almost every night. And now we’re up to 80 beds open on the main and second floor here, and we’re full every single night.”

Inside the 24/7 Karis Centre women’s shelter. (CityNews)

A lot of women experiencing homelessness have been through various forms of trauma or difficult situations, according to Pasma.

“What we want to be able to provide is a range and a mix of programming and services that are dedicated to this population and to support people with specialized programming,” he said.

“And we also have a women’s wellness program that specifically supports women with women’s related programming.”

Every woman staying at the Karis Centre has a semi-private bed and their own locker to keep their belongings safe – something that will become a new standard at Hope Mission shelters.

“They have much better sleep hygiene when they are able to sleep in what they feel is a safe environment, and often having a barrier around you can really help with that,” Pasma said. “We are hearing a lot of positive feedback from people staying here in regard to that.”

Separate from Chinatown core

Pasma believes the location of the shelter – at 107 Street at 103 Avenue – partly plays a part in its popularity.

“A lot of people are looking for care in a facility that’s designated for women, that’s separate, that’s also in a really good location, but isn’t part of that Chinatown core area, where we see a lot of people.

“It’s a smaller shelter in a separate location away from the Chinatown core, and then also offering a range of higher staffing ratios, more storage options for people, more connections, more community, more wraparound supports – all of that helps create a safer environment and an environment where people feel like they’re getting the care that they need.”

While the Karis Centre does not have space for couples, Pasma says Hope Mission’s main building downtown can accommodate 15 couples, and the forthcoming west side site – opening in the fall – will also accept couples.

WATCH: Edmonton homelessness crisis

Kozak says being at a shelter for women was important for her.

“I prefer to keep company with woman that I have more things in common with, that we can talk about,” she said. “So it’s not that I’m afraid of men, it’s that I don’t want to be around them. I prefer to be around women.”

She feels the centre offers everything she needs to get her life back on track.

“You get a bed and meals, and you get showers and toilet facilities, and there’s help here 24/7,” she said. “It’s not just one thing they give you, they give you everything you need.”

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