REGINA -- A new warm up centre has opened its door in Regina, offering people a place to go at night to stay out of the cold.

The Awasiw Warm Up Centre is a partnership between All Nations Hope and the YWCA Regina. In just a few weeks, the idea became a reality and its doors opened on Boxing Day. Everyone is welcome to use it.

“It’s just a place for the community to be able to say ‘this is my home,’” Wanda Rockthunder, the coordinator of the Awasiw Warm Up Centre, said.

The centre is located at 3510 5th Ave. It’s open every night for people to use the washroom, receive a hot drink and food when it is available and stay to warm up as long as they need.

“This is a place for them to come just to sit, just to feel that somebody cares and loves them,” said Hazel Bitternose, an elder with All Nations Hope who visits the centre regularly to support those who use it.

COVID-19 has significantly reduced shelter space in the city. The YWCA said it turns away about 50-70 people per month because of capacity restrictions. It’s hopeful the new centre will absorb some of those numbers.

“Shelter spaces are, I would say, roughly cut in half in they’re not closed,” Cora Sellers, senior director of women’s housing for YWCA Regina, said. “Some of them are closed due to spacing issues and because people are sick or what not, so there is a lack of space at night so the idea is to provide them with that space.”

Currently, the warm up centre is open from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. daily, but starting on Jan. 4 it will be open 24/7.

As the word spreads, organizers are hoping donations of food, coffee, clothing and volunteer hours will be made as they hope to help as many people as possible.

“We know there’s a need out there and we know that we need to help the people out there. We need to invite them in,” Rockthunder said.

Rockthunder said the centre will be open until at least March 31.