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Red Deer funds outreach team to approach homeless campers with housing options

Just cleaning up ‘rough sleeper camps’ doesn’t solve the problem, council told
(Contributed photo.)

A new outreach team will seek out homeless people in Red Deer who are sleeping in doorways or parks to connect them with housing options.

Red Deer city council approved $250,000 for a one-year pilot project for an “assertive street engagement team.”

Safe Harbour will receive this money from the provincial Outreach and Support Services Initiative to assemble an outreach team that will approach people sleeping in makeshift shelters or outside in the open — and provide them with shelter.

Council heard the city spends about $600,000 annually to clean up “rough sleeper camps,“ but this is not resulting in more chronically homeless people being housed.

“Frequent campers do not have a large history with Red Deer’s housing first system,” states a report prepared for council.

Since such outreach teams are making a difference in other communities, Coun. Dianne Wyntjes hopes that reaching out directly to vulnerable, homeless people — many with mental illnesses or additions — will be another piece of the puzzle of solving homelessness in the city.

Coun. Ken Johnston also spoke in favour of the recommendation from city administration and the Community Housing Advisory Board.

”This strikes back against the status quo,” which isn’t working, by addressing “what has become an annual, seasonal challenge,” said Johnston.

Council unanimously approved to the project in the belief the effort will reduce homeless encampments and the annual cost of cleaning them up.

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