Grande Prairie’s homeless strategy appears to be working. Although the data hasn’t been finalized, it looks like the number of people in this year’s homeless point-in-time count has gone down from 2014. Homelessness Initiatives Supervisor Katherine Sheppard says that’s despite canvassing a wider area.
“We’re including some numbers that we haven’t in the past such as looking at individuals that were in Grande Prairie and have gone into corrections. We’re collecting data from hospitals, if there’s anyone in the hospital that’s experiencing homelessness that night as well.”
Correctional institutions like in Peace River, Grande Cache and Edmonton were included thanks to collaboration with other Alberta cities. Sheppard also attributes the drop to funding to provincial and federal funding over the past couple of years. She says it’s especially helped people who temporarily experience homelessness.
“They’re connecting to the Housing First Program; they’re getting into housing with support, and we’re seeing an 85 per cent success rate of people maintaining that housing.”
However, Sheppard maintains there’s still a gap with high needs people you may see out on the streets.
“We need some specialized housing to meet their needs; we need a housing project with 24 hour a day supports, including in the evening. So what we’re doing is we’re having lots of conversations with people saying, ‘what does housing look like for you? What is it that we’re not doing that’s meeting those needs?'”
Sheppard says they want to have those plans in place in anticipation of funding.