WINNIPEG -- A Winnipeg warming centre is opening a week early this year to help the city’s homeless population.

“This is our fifth season and we’re really excited to open early,” said Tessa Whitecloud, executive director of 1JustCity, the non-profit that runs the centre.

“We’ve never opened in December before.”

Just a Warm Sleep, located on Pulford Street, provides those experiencing homelessness a warm place to sleep during the winter. Normally, the warming centre opens on Jan. 1, but this year due to the pandemic and the cold weather, it’s opening on Dec. 24.

Whitecloud said they’ve wanted to open early in the past, but this year a donor came through to fund the extra nights.

“We’re really grateful to all the donors who’ve made that possible this year,” she said.

The centre is open every night of the week and can accommodate up to 30 people per night.

“We’re really lucky we have a big space so we can spread people out safely and operate that way,” Whitecloud said.

“Last year we saw 30 on the regular and we don’t know what this year will bring. We know that more people are experiencing homelessness due to COVID-19 and we also know there are some more resources available.”

She added they can guarantee that they will “consistently be there” for their guests, and offer safety and warmth.

Anyone who would like to support Just a Warm Sleep or 1JustCity can do so online.