A new program to help combat homelessness in Red Deer is inching closer to an official launch.
The Welcome Home project, led by representatives from local PLURA (Presbyterian, Lutheran, United, Roman Catholic and Anglican) churches, will support individuals and families who have been recently housed as they adjust to a life off the streets or in better housing than their previous situations.
The project is volunteer-based, funded by a $40,000 city grant, but does have one staff member, a part-time co-ordinator. Women’s Outreach is also involved, acting as a supervising body and the financial overseer. In the planning for several months, the project is just waiting for the final details in regards to who will be participating, said Linda Ervin, minister for Sunnybrook United Church.
She said it could be a matter of weeks or mere days before Welcome Home kicks off its official pilot project year. She expects it to continue well after the pilot phase. Ervin, one of the main players driving the project, added that four community volunteers had now been trained to support one recently housed individual who has yet to be selected. Two will act as the main supports, with one relief person and one in charge of continuing the volunteer training in Red Deer, Ervin explained.
These four volunteers recently travelled to Edmonton for a day and a half to receive training from the Welcome Home program there, run by Catholic Social Services for the past two years. It reports a 80 per cent success rate, which is one of the reasons Ervin threw her support behind a Red Deer equivalent.
“We’re just an interested group of people who want to make a difference,” Ervin said. “What’s exciting for me is that people will be in homes, they will be safe and secure and volunteers will be working with them to ensure that they will be able to stay housed. That’s one of the concerns: people get into housing but don’t have the support to stay housed for a long time.”
The group is looking for more volunteers as two are needed for every client. They would like to have a total of at least 12. The commitment is a few hours once a week for a year. Volunteers received a stipend of $40 per month to help cover the cost of activities they do with the program participants, such as movies or coffee. Anyone interested in volunteering with Welcome Home can contact David Bouchard at firstname.lastname@example.org.