Drayton Valley opens new shelter pods for residents needing a place to rest

The town of Drayton Valley is giving residents experiencing homelessness a warm, safe and private space to spend the night.

Drayton Valley is the second community in Alberta to set up small pod-style shelters that can be accessed overnight by anyone needing a place to stay.

Lola Strand, Drayton Valley community services manager, said previous shelter programs in the town were difficult to sustain because of funding and staffing requirements. The pods are a sustainable alternative, said Strand, because they’re operated remotely with minimal staffing.

Clients wanting a pod check in over the phone. After giving some personal information and agreeing to the program’s code of conduct, they’re given a code and are free to check in any time between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m.

The program has two trailers, with 12 pods in total available. Codes are changed daily, the space is monitored by video 24 hours a day and is located across the street from an RCMP detachment. Strand says the safety aspect of the pods is especially important for women with nowhere to stay. And rooms are big enough for two, meaning couples get to stay together.

“It’s a more dignified way to offer shelter. From experience, not everyone wants to sleep on a mat on a floor of a church basement. This way they have their own private space,” said Strand.

One of the pod trailers was federally funded. The second was donated by a local non-profit, Humans Helping Humans Housing Foundation. Strand said the town donated the land for the pods and is funding operating costs for the next five years.

Hack Hamdon, Humans Helping Humans Housing Foundation president, said the pods offer privacy and dignity - but they aren’t a permanent solution.

“The ultimate solution would be to put every homeless person in a home. That’s how you end homelessness,” Hamdon said. “But this is an excellent band-aid for the time being.”

“My mom always said, ‘Where are you sleeping tonight? Are you going to be safe? Are you going to be warm?’” Hamdon said. “Well, this is for my mom and every single other mom in Drayton Valley. Starting today and every single day moving forward, there will be a warm safe place for your child to sleep in Drayton Valley.”

Hamdon said the town is working to institute a Housing First model, but they haven’t yet been able to secure federal funding.