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Broken sprinkler damages food, medical supplies at city's largest homeless shelter

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Winnipeg’s largest homeless shelter has lost up to $25,000 in food and medical supplies after a sprinkler head blew Thursday, flooding part of the building.

With Christmas less than two weeks away, Siloam Mission is scrambling to replenish its food stock while dealing with the water damage, which has temporarily closed its medical centre.

"When you’re trying to work so hard to make sure everybody is cared for at Christmas time, it just kind of sets you back," executive director Floyd Perras said.

"I guess what I worry about is it will take away some of our energy to make sure Christmas is good here for the folks."

Fire crews were called to 300 Princess St. just after 9 a.m. and discovered a sprinkler head running in the medical supply room of the Saul Sair Health Centre on the first floor of the four-storey building, Perras said. A damper that allows cold air to flow in during the summer was not closed properly, which caused the pipes in the ceiling leading to the sprinkler to freeze, Perras said. The water backup put pressure on the seal of the sprinkler head causing it to break.

Crews were able to stop the running sprinkler head, but not before it flooded about 4,000 square feet of the medical centre and clothing room with about six centimetres of water, which trickled down the insides of the walls and through the floor into the basement where the food is stored, Perras said.

"It’s unbelievable the amount of water that came out of that," he said.

Perras believes two-to-three full pallets of food, valued between $5,000 and $10,000, will likely have to be thrown away and up to $15,000 in medical supplies was damaged. Volunteers spent Thursday afternoon sifting through crates ripping the soggy labels off canned goods and throwing away items packaged in cardboard boxes.

None of the clothing in the clothing room was damaged since it was being stored high enough off the floor to avoid the water, Perras said. He expects the clothing room to reopen Friday.

More than 100 shelter clients and 300 volunteers and staff members evacuated the building for about an hour and moved into one behind it at 303 Stanley St., which is used as an additional dining room in the summer.

About two-dozen volunteers and half-a-dozen shelter-users helped vacuum and mop up the water once fire crews said the building was safe to re-enter around 10 a.m., Perras said.

"At this point it’s a fair bit of a cleanup," he noted.

Rainbow International disaster restoration services brought in fans to help dry out the damp medical centre.

The insurance company hadn’t provided an estimate for damage to the building by Thursday afternoon, but Perras expects reparations will be covered.

The kitchen, dining room and sleeping areas were not affected and remain operational.

"When you’re running a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week essential service, when you have a disruption, it ripples days and weeks through your operations," Perras said.

Siloam is still able to accept donations.

Perras hopes donors will be patient as staff and volunteers had to divert their attention to help deal with the ramifications of the flood.

"I do know that people take care of us when things like this happen. That’s who Manitoba is," he said.

On Friday, radio stations QX 104 and FAB 94, along with Freightliner Manitoba and Transolutions Truck Rental and Leasing will be holding their One Big Day for Christmas event at Garden City Shopping Centre in support of the mission, collecting non-perishable food items, clothes and unwrapped toys for kids, as well as monetary donations, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Donations can also be dropped off at Siloam Mission, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Donations can also be made online at, by mail or by calling 204-956-4344.


Updated on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 1:57 PM CST: Adds information on radio fundraiser on Friday.

4:56 PM: Full writethru

December 13, 2013 at 9:15 AM: Corrects typo

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