Mat program not quite ready to open its doors

Committee hopes to bring people out from the cold with overnight shelter program

The Ponoka Housing and Homelessness Committee’s overnight mat program to shelter the homeless isn’t quite up and running yet, but they’ve overcome some major hurdles and hope to be operational soon.

Location, tick. Mats, tick. Volunteers, tick — and now the program has insurance coverage, which was necessary for liability reasons.

The program will provide a warm indoor space for people to sleep overnight on provided mats during the cold winter months and will be completely volunteer-run.

Town communications manager Sandra Smith confirmed on Jan. 13 that the town will be able to provide the mat program with access to insurance coverage.

The town has been working on this request since committee member Dr. Cayla Gilbert came before council on Nov. 12, 2019.

READ MORE: Group seeks support for overnight shelter program

“Work is now underway on some final details to get the program up and running,” said Smith.

The minutes from the committee’s Dec. 11 meeting states the mat program received a donation of $2,000 from the health foundation for the purchase of mats.

The committee held a volunteer training session and open house on Jan. 6 at the First Baptist Church.

Coun. Kevin Ferguson and Sandra Lyons attended the walk-through on Jan. 6, according to their reports during the Jan. 14 regular council meeting.

“I got a chance to see the venue and where all this is going to go,” said Ferguson.

According to Lyons’ report, the mat program has 38 volunteers signed up.

The mat program signed a rental agreement with the church, starting Jan. 15, so once some final pieces are in place, the program will be ready to open its doors, according to committee member Lisa Hagemann.

“We have a small bit of work to complete first prior to announcing our start date,” said Hagemann via email Jan. 16.

There is still some volunteer training and intake to do, further preparations and some renovations to complete, according to committee member Shannon Boyce-Campbell.

Organizations supporting the program include the Ponoka and District Health Foundation, First Baptist Church, the Town of Ponoka and Rimoka Housing, as well as all of the committee members.

The committee can be reached at ponoka.housing.homeless@gmail.com.

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