When it comes to helping people who are homeless, Red Deer means business.
Seven weeks ago, Red Deer city council approved a five-year community plan towards ending homelessness.
Now, a new youth overnight shelter, night-time outreach teams and a 24-hour shelter for homeless with the flu are operating as pilot projects and there are plans for much more.
“We have thousands of households that are just at the cusp of becoming homeless. We have new people coming to town all the time surprised by the expense of housing or are homeless when they arrive,” said Stacey Carmichael, who provided an update on Red Deer’s homelessness initiatives on Monday.
“We need to maintain what we have and we need to be able to be reactive to growth,” said Carmichael, co-ordinator of community leadership initiatives for Red Deer and District Community Foundation.
The plan — EveryOne’s Home — includes developing 500 affordable housing options between 2010 and 2015. Access to support services is another goal in the plan.
Nightreach, a joint project between Central Alberta AIDS Network Society and Red Deer Native Friendship Society, has teams of outreach workers walking the downtown city core and city parks two nights a week to connect with the city’s homeless and provide basic supplies like mitts, coffee, first-aid and referrals.
Previously, outreach programs operated only during week days.
The pilot project, which started without any funding but now has funding from Family and Community Support Services until Jan. 1, is also collecting information on the types of services needed.
CAANS executive director Jennifer Vanderschaeghe said important information is emerging after connecting to 88 people in only 10 nights.
“About 48 per cent of the folks were aboriginal, which is a significant number specifically because there’s only a 10 per cent prevalence of aboriginal folks in our community,” Vandershaeghe said.
On Nov. 1, Red Deer’s Youth Winter Inn opened at the Youth and Volunteer Centre to provide a safe place for intoxicated or homeless youth to sleep.
“Our main purpose is to make sure they are warm, safe and they keep on coming back,” said program manager Rose Hatfield.
Staff will try to help youth access other community support programs.
The public is invited to an open house at the Youth and Volunteer Centre, at 4633 49th St., on Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. to find out more about the Youth Winter Inn.
On Nov. 6, Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing opened a 24-hour, 25-cot shelter for homeless suffering from the H1N1 virus.
Safe Harbour executive director Kath Hoffman said the shelter is doing exactly what it needs to do thanks to the partnership that has developed between the city and community agencies.
“We set a world record, I think, in opening a shelter in five days in this community. That’s unheard of and set a precedent in this province. We did that because we had those relationships.”
More housing and program planning is in the works.
Piper Creek Foundation has applied for provincial funding to build more affordable housing for seniors.
Executive director Geoff Olson said about half the seniors in Red Deer, or about 3,000, live on incomes of less than $27,000 a year.
Piper Creek only has 49 affordable housing suites at Pines Court so the need is “huge,” Olson said.