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Outreach funding boosted

Homeless people in Red Deer will get assistance to get off the street sooner with an increase of provincial funding for outreach services.

Local agencies will receive a total of $3 million for outreach support programs — an increase of $615,000 over last year — as part of Alberta’s 10-year Plan to End Homelessness.

The money from the government’s Human Services Department will fund a new triage program at the homeless shelter run by the Central Alberta Safe Harbour Society.

It will also help maintain other existing programs offered by the society, the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre, Central Alberta Women’s Outreach, Canadian Mental Health Association and others.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling is happy to see the funding influx, predicting “it will help make life better for a lot of people.”

The mayor sometimes hears from critics that Red Deer is attracting more homeless people than its population warrants because of good local housing programs. “My response to that is — is that a bad thing?” said Flewwelling, who feels people should be glad to have a supportive community that helps vulnerable people turn their lives around.

“If not Red Deer, where?” the mayor asked.

With the funding increase, Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas said the provincial government is recognizing that programs to help the homeless are critical for the creation of healthy communities and citizens who contribute positively to society.

Among the reasons for more local hope is the new triage program, said Stacey Carmichael, director or housing and outreach services for the Safe Harbour Society. A new triage worker was hired at the shelter last month to assess the needs of each incoming homeless person, and find out how to best connect the individual to appropriate services and programs. The worker will discover what each client’s urgent needs are and help them get past whatever barriers they face.

She will also build relationships with housing providers, and “negotiate” with landlords to get clients into housing that they might not otherwise qualify for, said Carmichael, who noted other shelter workers are too busy with day-to-day demands to give this kind of help.

With the extra assistance, she believes more people will get out of the shelter and into stable accommodations faster.

The funds will also help:

• Central Alberta Women’s Outreach Society’s Red Deer Housing Team, which provides support for people with chronic or repeat housing problems.

• Safe Harbour Society’s Supported Recovery Housing Project, which supports people recovering from addictions, and Harbour House, which accommodates eight hard-to-house individuals with staff assistance.

• Red Deer Native Friendship Centre’s New Beginnings Aboriginal Housing program that encourages sustained sobriety

• The Buffalo Housing First Program, which gives 39 people with addictions, mental illnesses and other disabilities, a home off the street.

• Winter Inn, which gives adult homeless people a warm place to spend the night.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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