Homeless funding change leaves people out in cold

This letter was also sent to Alberta Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, Red Deer’s mayor and city councillors, and the Safe Harbour Society:

This letter was also sent to Alberta Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, Red Deer’s mayor and city councillors, and the Safe Harbour Society:

In September, we read a news article that the Red Deer Winter’s Inn program run by the Central Alberta Safe Harbour Society did not receive funding from the Community Housing Advisory Board.

We wondered what that would mean to Red Deer’s homeless population and we found out during the first real cold snap and winter storm of the season. Twelve people were turned away over a two-day period from People’s Place and eight were turned away from the mat program.

Upon inquiring why the Safe Harbour Society did not receive funding, we discovered that the government (which provides funding to the Community Housing Advisory Board) made the decision that funding could not be used to provide temporary shelter for homeless people.

In a community where we have buildings sitting idle, such as those on the Michener grounds as well as two empty former nursing homes, it is unconscionable that people are being left out in the cold.

We understand that homelessness can be a complicated situation for many, especially for those with a mental illness or addictions; however, it is heartbreaking that people who are looking for a warm place to sleep have to remain on the streets in the cold.

We are aware that there is a backlog of housing options and many who stay in shelters are on the Red Deer Housing Team waitlist.

We also understand that tackling homelessness has many facets, including securing long-term housing.

We further understand that the government has changed its focus to making long-term changes that will prevent homelessness and strategies requiring co-ordinated action between government and local communities.

However, none of this changes the situation at hand — winter is here and there is not enough funding in place for temporary shelters to allow people to escape the brutally cold winters that we have in Red Deer.

This is an immediate and urgent situation and we implore you to restore funding so those who need shelter can have their needs met.

Barb Miller

President

Red Deer and District Labour Council

Red Deer