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City shares year four homelessness report card with public

The City of Grande Prairie says its five-year plan to end homelessness is working. At an open house on Friday, city staff gathered to share the results of year four of the project.

“After six months in housing, we see an increase in quality of life for individuals and a decreased cost to the public system. [We saw] a 73 per cent reduction in EMS use last year, a 92 per cent reduction in interactions with the police and 77 per cent reduction in emergency room visits,’ says Homeless Initiatives Supervisor Katherine Schmidt.

According to a point in time count in 2018, 228 people were counted as being homeless in one night. Through housing programs, 126 new people were given a place to live along with 129 people who carried over from previous years.

The Five Year Plan to End Homelessness was approved in 2015. It includes plans to build more affordable and supportive housing. Schmidt says that by looking at the Parkside Inn as a guide they plan to do that by 2020.

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“We’re learning lots from the Parkside and other buildings across the province. It’s key on having enough staffing and its also key in having Alberta Health Services, addiction and mental health supports and not just assume that a support worker is just going to walk into a building with complex needs and be able to do all of that.”

She adds they also have plans to create a second emergency shelter this winter like the one at Rotary House that would be opened when Rotary House gets close to capacity.

“[We’re going to] track the numbers every single day over the winter and as soon as those numbers start getting up close to capacity then we activate a second site. It’s going to be a different way of looking at it where we don’t have to predetermine, put in a whole bunch of money and have two mat programs but what we will do is be prepared and have it so it’s actionable immediately.”

Exact locations for those new programs have not been set yet.

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