Alberta Health Services’ Street Connect outreach team has worked with about 225 people since 2021 who were experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
“Mostly we go to where the clients are. Where they eat, sleep, rest,” said Street Connect manager Michelle Schafers.
“I think the unhoused populations is one of the least likely to seek out help so we’re trying to reach the folks who are the hardest to reach.”
Developed in collaboration with community partners, the multidisciplinary team is made up of registered nurses, a nurse practitioner, a recreation therapist, an addiction counsellor, social workers, a psychiatrist, consumer support workers, and a peer support worker.
In June, the Street Connect team relocated its office to the South Gaetz Medical Centre, near Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, so now clients can also access support there. The team now shares space with the Red Deer Primary Care Network Street Clinic, the Canadian Mental Health Association and an AHS public health dental clinic.
Previously the team’s office was not accessible to clients.
“We try to help people to feel safe enough to walk through the front doors if they need services,” Schafers said.
She said the program focuses on those with an identified need that can’t already be met within the community. Addiction and mental health supports are the focus, but the clients may need help with anything from accessing ID or food, help with income applications, medication management, supports for housing, connection to legal aid, and more.
Complementing the work of the Street Connect team, the Red Deer PCN Street Clinic provides primary care, Hepatitis C treatment and Opioid Agonist Therapy.
Street Connect currently has a caseload of 75 clients, but with the relocation of its office, the team anticipates that number will grow and along with it, an improved ability to connect them with organizations now under the same roof.
Street Connect staff reach out to clients from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.