Inn from the Cold‘s Hilary Jenkins points out not having a permanent home is a concern many children experiencing homelessness express during the holiday season.
“We have children who are constantly asking… ‘Where is Santa going to come?… We don’t have our own home. Will he know that we are here?'” said Jenkins, who is the senior manager of stakeholder relations for the Inn.
It’s up to Jenkins and everyone else who works at the Calgary shelter to ensure those concerns are put to rest and that each child and their family has a Christmas that’s as normal as possible.
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It’s a tall order considering the holidays can be a stressful time for any parent. It can be even more challenging for a parent who doesn’t have a roof over their head and limited means to buy gifts.
“We have Santa’s gift shop where actually each family member can go select gifts for family members so everyone has a magical morning and something special to look forward to,” Jenkins said.
She added donations for children are never an issue but securing suitable gifts for teens and adults can be.
Since January, Inn from the Cold has been running at or over capacity almost consistently.
Just a few blocks away, it’s no different at the YW Calgary. More than 170 women and children will seek shelter on any given night, many of whom are often fleeing a violent and consequently traumatic situation.
Staff at the YW say they work hard to mitigate that trauma and are bolstered by the support they receive from the community. Both groups, especially at this time of year, rely heavily on the generosity of donors.
“Donors, I’m not sure they realize the difference that they make,” YW CEO Sue Tomney said.
“These are kids who’ve had to leave home. There’s lots of uncertainty in their life. There may have been traumatic events and for them they’re looking for that sense of normal.
“The fact that Santa finds them under a YW roof and brings them something means everything to them.”
Both groups will continue to seek donations for the holidays. Inn from the Cold is also inviting interested Calgarians to an open house Dec. 8 where they can find out more about the shelter and how to help families in need this Christmas.
More information on the event can be found on their website.
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