Less government funding for sober and supported, affordable housing means Safe Harbour Society will have to evict six people on July 1.
Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing says it’s short $50,000 after the city reduced provincial funding the society receives to help end homelessness. As a result, the society is being forced to close one of its four houses and reduce the number of tenants to 15 from 21.
Kath Hoffman, Safe Harbour’s executive director, said it’s not about how the city divided the provincial funding among community agencies, but the fact that more money is needed to end homelessness.
“We want to provide the service we’ve been providing successfully for the last 15 years. We want to keep doing what we’re doing. We have lots of people who need us to keep doing what we’re doing,” Hoffman said on Tuesday.
Instead of helping to end homelessness, Safe Harbour had to send out eviction notices, she said.
The society’s supported housing program provides a sober environment in affordable housing for people who aren’t quite strong enough.
“They don’t feel quite sturdy enough to be on their own. They want some accountability. They want the staff to support them and the facilitator in the house to help stabilize them,” Hoffman said.
The funding cut also means clients who move out on their own won’t have access to supported housing staff who have been available to them for up to a year in the community.
Tamara Oakes, shelter triage/Safe Harbour Society housing worker, said clients feel safe in the supported housing.
“They can stay as long as they want. They’re not given a time frame to leave. It’s when they want and when they’re ready. And they have that support after to help them transition into the community on their own,” Oakes said.
The longest a client has lived at a house is five years and the shortest is about one year.
Staff help clients with whatever they need like working on goal planning, developing life skills, accessing resources or detox. Developing a good relationship with staff is also important.
“It takes a lot for our guys to build up trust in us, to be able to depend on us, and trust us that we’re there to work with them,” said Tina Scott, housing support worker.
Scott said there’s been many success stories and feared for those who are evicted.
“Lots of our guys aren’t at a spot where big change is good. There’s a chance of relapse.”
And she worried about the clients who have moved out but still need contact with supported housing workers.
“It’s leaving them high and dry and setting them up for a fall,” Scott said.
Sarah Cockerill, the city’s director of community services, said providing housing to the longest term shelter users and those sleeping outside is a new priority to help end homelessness in the city.
She said a review showed that focusing on those groups would have the most impact.
“Based on the new direction a number of agencies were unsuccessful in their RFP (request for proposal) process or saw changes to their funding that might change the way they do business. In the case of Safe Harbour, they’re an independent organization and certainly decisions to administer programs are their own,” Cockerill said.