News / Edmonton

Boyle Street's homeless warming bus back in action after surprise donation

The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation stepped up with $61,500

Boyle Street Programs Director Aidan Inglis stands in front of the warming bus last week.

Kevin Maimann / Metro Edmonton

Boyle Street Programs Director Aidan Inglis stands in front of the warming bus last week.

The bus is back.

Boyle Street’s winter warming bus is ready to rev its engine for the first time this season, after an unexpected donation fulfilled its $100,000 fundraising goal.

The bus, which runs every winter and offers transportation and key services to people in need, was not funded this year for the first time in more than a decade.

That is, until the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation stepped up Wednesday with a $61,500 donation.

“We hadn’t gone and approached them or anything like that, so it was very pleasant surprise,” said Boyle Street program director Aidan Inglis. “It was pretty amazing, actually.”

The warming bus offers riders warm food, clothing, blankets, resources for support services and a place to warm up for homeless Edmontonians seven days a week.

It also provides transportation to the Jasper Place Wellness Centre, the southside Neighbour Centre and the northside Mosaic Centre, and picks up people from around the city to bring them to downtown shelters.

Inglis said the wheels started turning after Andy Holt, president of A-Squared Communications, donated $1,000 last week and issued a challenge on Twitter for others to follow suit.

“That sort of community support really speaks to how Edmontonians are able to rally, no matter what. We had people from outside of Edmonton donating as well, we had people giving whatever they could,” Inglis said.

“We had one person tell me that their daughter was going to be donating all of her allowance, and that she was going to be doing a bottle drive in the community to raise money for it.”

Boyle Street was still sitting below $40,000 by Tuesday, before the Royal Alex foundation filled in the rest.

The bus was funded by Homeward Trust until last year, when the agency decided it could no longer afford it. That winter, eight or nine community partners joined forces to come up with the $100,000.

Inglis said a lot of people have come to rely on the bus and remember its route, and its absence was putting those people in a tough spot.

It usually runs from Nov. 1 to the end of April.

The Royal Alex foundation’s CEO Andrew Otway said the bus was a good fit, as collaborations between health and social service agencies lead to the best outcomes for inner-city patients with struggling with addiction and homelessness.  

“We recognize that we need to be there 24/7 as a hospital, providing services. But really, it’s usually best for the patient if they don’t have to come to the Royal Alex in the first place,” Otway said.

“Something like the warming bus is a great initiative that Boyle Street is doing.”

He added that the foundation wanted to get the bus running before the next cold snap, when people living outdoors would be at risk of dying from exposure.

Inglis said he is hopeful the bus will be on the road by next week, but Boyle Street is still searching for long-term sustainable funding.

“This is the second year in a row that we have had to seek emergency funding from different partners within the community,” Inglis said.

“It puts people at risk when we don’t know what’s happening and we aren’t able to get it out on time. It’s something we need to make sure gets going and is taken care of without the rush in the winter.”

Inglis said 1,317 people rode the warming bus last winter.

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