Red Deer to get new plan to end homelessness as problem persists

Despite some successes there’s ‘a long way to go,’ says manager

Time is almost up on Red Deer’s 10-year Plan to End Homelessness.

While the optimistically named document didn’t accomplish everything its name suggests, it did make big inroads into finding accommodations for many of the city’s chronically homeless people, said Tricia Hercina, social planning manager for the City of Red Deer.

What it didn’t — and couldn’t — have predicted was the opioid epidemic that impacted some of the people who had been helped, she added.

Accommodations were found for about 1,000 people over the past decade, but she acknowledged that a portion of that population have been “in and out” of housing because of addictions-related issues.

While “we’re not there yet. We’ve had a lot of successes,” said Hercina — including the creation of “a more co-ordinated access system” to housing through the co-operation of social service agencies.

“That’s been a huge, huge win … As a community we are better informed about who we serve and the models that have been successful.”

The old Buffalo hotel in downtown Red Deer was turned into a permanent supportive housing for people who need the help of mental health workers and other support staff to help them navigate the system, get to doctors appointments, and get assistance with income support, said Hercina. This site has recently been beset by emergencies arising from addictions, and will receive more mental health support workers.

Although “there’s still a long way to go,” she stressed a lot of people are “really invested” in the goal of getting people off the street and onto a better path in life.

She added a new plan to reduce homelessness will be pulled together with input from public workshops that are planned in the upcoming months. The city is in the process of hiring a consultant to help steer the process.

The next homelessness plan hasn’t been named yet. Hercina believes it will have shorter span than a decade, since it’s hard to predict what the issues the city will be facing in years to come.

Another change will be a widened scope of people being helped. Rather than focusing on the chronically homeless, Hercina said the new plan will address a “full continuum” of people impacted by a local housing shortfall.

As well as assisting mat shelter clients or those in rough sleeper camps, the new plan will help people who have been driven out of their homes because of drastic circumstances, such as job loss, who have unstable housing situations, and are “couch surfing” or sleeping in their cars.

“There will be a focus on poverty reduction and affordable housing choices,” she said.

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