This year’s homeless count in Grande Prairie took into account residents currently in corrections, a group that can often fall through the cracks when released. A new non-profit advocacy group named GAPS has been formed to identify and try to fill some of those holes. Committee chair Jerry Napier says they’re simply concerned citizens looking to stop the revolving door.
“We’re just looking to help with basic needs like funds, shelter, food medical, social needs; these are all things that have to be dealt with immediately, and if we don’t get to them right away, then their chances of not succeeding and winding up back in the institutions is huge.”
The issue can start as soon as someone gets dropped off in Clairmont with no way to get to services in Grande Prairie. Napier explains that some people being released from prison, a mental health or addictions centre, or even aging out of Family Services care are often released with little or no cash and ID.
“Lots of times they can’t even open a bank account because they don’t have an address, so they don’t stand a chance then to be able to get themselves some immediate shelter or food. They’re turning to whatever they can to do that, and sometimes they end up going back to what got them in trouble in the first place.”
GAPS held a seminar last month with local organizations to find out where their frustrations lie and to find ways that they can help. Already, the group has plans to create a website with all of the information needed for someone facing homelessness. Napier says they also plan to push for a halfway house in Grande Prairie.
“Anybody that’s being released from corrections would have to go to Edmonton if they’re on day parole. They could technically be working here in Grande Prairie if they had a job that they would just have to be housed overnight, but without a halfway house, they’re forced to go to Edmonton.”
The organization is unfunded and won’t be dealing with clients directly. Instead, they’ll be working to create an ongoing dialogue, and advocating for what’s most needed. Anyone interested in getting involved can contact Jerry Napier at [email protected]