Gateway Gazette

Tackling the Homelessness Issue in Rural & Remote Alberta: Over $2M Awarded to Projects in 11 Communities

Homelessness, while often hidden, is an indisputable fact in rural Alberta; one that, unfortunately, also appears to be on the rise. Housing and support services are a growing need in rural communities, to help those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, before their problems get worse. The Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) has awarded $2,022,820 to 11 projects under the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy. This funding will help small, rural and remote communities provide their citizens with increased access to housing and the supports and services they need.

$247,300 to the Mountain Rose Women’s Shelter Association: Clearwater County Housing Support Services provides supports to ensure that people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless can stabilize their circumstances and move beyond emergency needs. This will be accomplished through a multi-phased/multi-year strategic plan which includes community consultation, partnerships/resource networks, specialized housing support staff, transportation/move-in supports and, finally, new transition housing apartments available in Rocky Mountain House.

$377,520 to the Town of Fort Macleod Family and Community Support Services (FCSS):  The Fort Macleod Housing Support Program will reduce the risk of homelessness for families and individuals in their community.  A housing first approach will connect at-risk families and individuals to permanent housing in order to obtain stability and to move beyond emergency needs. Intensive case management and wrap around services will be provided to support families and individuals from a client centered approach, always taking into account the cultural context.

$344,369 to Drayton Valley & District FCSS: The Homelessness and Poverty Reduction Team will move forward with their developed Homelessness and Poverty Reduction Strategy. This project builds naturally on the needs assessment done in their previous work. This includes short, medium and long term goals for building community capacity, connecting individuals to resources and advocacy. The most immediate action will be to begin the implementation of the Emergency Sheltering Plan and to engage local industry in solution development.

$38,737 to the Town of Stony Plain FCSS: A homelessness issue exists in Stony Plain but is vastly hidden and not fully understood. This project will consist of three phases: 1) Completion of a study based on the methodology developed by Drayton Valley FCSS and the U of A to determine the scope and characteristics of the situation; 2) Sharing results with stakeholders and together developing a formal response plan in accordance with a Housing First philosophy; and 3) Implementation of the response plan developed in phase 2.

$334,024 to the Vulcan Regional Food Bank Society: Vulcan’s Initiative to Achieve Better Living Environments (VIABLE) Homelessness Project will meet the needs of Vulcan County’s homeless and at-risk of homelessness with emergency shelter, food, and connection to permanent housing. The project will also provide short and long-term supports and services to adults, youth, and children in the areas of physical and mental health, parenting, resources, education, and employment readiness in order to stabilize their circumstances and help them transition successfully from poverty to self-sufficiency.

$33,006 to the Town of Bonnyville/Bonnyville and District FCSS:  This project will hire a part time employee to look at the level of homelessness in the community and determine how to better coordinate community partners to improve services. Located in the FCSS office, this individual will also provide advocacy and referrals as required. This project will also initiate community conversations to bring a better understanding to the community of the issue at hand.

$375,209 to the Boys and Girls Club of Cochrane & Area: The Vision is to see no youth homeless in the community. This project is committed to a sustainable housing first program and to community-based projects that will provide support to ensure that youth who are homeless and at risk of becoming homeless can stabilize and move beyond emergency needs. This project will utilize invested organizations, support services, community partners and wrap-around care, to work towards the Vision.

$45,155 to the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Banff: This project will help bring the Gingerbread residence up to modern codes and standards. The building was built in 1939 and has not been renovated since the late 1950s. A recent AHS report indicated that the 22 residents lack acceptable common kitchen space, adequate single pane windows, and enough suitable washrooms. These renovations will make the residence a sustainable option for many years to come.

$58,000 to the St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village Society: The St. Albert Homeless Prevention Strategy is a two phase project. Phase 1 will research, assess, and identify gaps and impacts of homelessness and housing instability on rural and suburban populations of St. Albert and communities within the Sturgeon County sub-region. Phase 2 will determine the applicability of best practices and use of resources to meet the needs and gaps identified in Phase 1, in order to coordinate and leverage current resources effectively.

$119,500 to the Leduc County FCSS: Leduc County and its partners take homelessness seriously. This project will provide support to individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. This includes a housing first component if the resources can be identified. Support will include interventions that would stabilize the client’s life and reduce the risk of being without a home. They will seek to find long term or permanent solutions to reduce homelessness and increase community capacity.

$50,000 to the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre: Housing First for Slave Lake will adapt the Housing First model for use in their community.  Slave Lake can be considered the ‘gateway to the south’, as all roads from northern parts come through their community.  Slave Lake has a shifting homeless population of about 10 – 20 individuals who do not have access to shelter.

“Once again, we were overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the need in rural Alberta. With 29 applications asking for nearly $12,000,000, we had many difficult choices to make,” says Dee Ann Benard, executive director of ARDN. “The chosen projects demonstrate committed communities and organizations applying home-grown solutions to their unique issues. We are already seeing communities learning from each and working together to address the needs of people who are homeless or at risk. We look forward to working with these projects and seeing the results of their good work.”

ARDN is a not-for-profit partnership of Alberta’s 21 public colleges, universities and technical institutes working together to enhance the quality of life in rural Alberta through research and learning. Visit www.ardn.ca to learn more.

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