Samaritan House Ministries officially opened their newly renovated Safe and Warm shelter at 7 p.m. Friday, boasting sleeping spaces that range from 13 to 24 beds.
The local charity was forced to cut the number of shelter beds from 25 to 13 when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, in order to establish proper physical distancing for their clients.
Members of Samaritan House started renovations last fall in order to bring the number of beds back up to 25 without violating public health guidelines.
While the shelter itself has been closed since March 31 — the end of their usual winter season — the organization has used the past couple of weeks to finish renovations, complete a deep clean and provide an opportunity for staff training.
"We’re not quite done on renos, but we’ve got to a place where, (based on) the renos that we’ve done, we can open the Safe and Warm shelter tonight," Samaritan House Ministries executive director Barbara McNish said Friday.
Brandon East MLA Len Isleifson was also present at Samaritan House on Friday for this announcement, since his Progressive Conservative government earmarked $172,000 in their upcoming budget for Samaritan House.
This will allow the charity to run their Safe and Warm shelter year-round, instead of closing from April to October.
McNish held back tears as she personally thanked Isleifson and his colleagues Friday, since establishing a year-round shelter has been an ambition of staff for years.
"It means the world to Samaritan House, it means the world to me and our staff, it means the world to our community and the people that we serve here," she said. "So thank you on behalf of myself, the board and Samaritan House Ministries and the Safe and Warm shelter."
McNish also took some time Friday to thank members of the community who financially supported them throughout this transitional period, from anonymous donors to big local businesses.
However, she clarified Samaritan House is still looking for donations to help pay for the shelter expansion, their food bank program and various other initiatives.
Anyone interested in making a donation can contact McNish directly by emailing her at email@example.com.