Listen Live
HomeNewsCity aiming for tent city solution by autumn

City aiming for tent city solution by autumn

Officials with the City of Grande Prairie hope to bring some relief to the residents of the growing tent city by autumn. Protective & Social Services Director Chris Manuel says the city is currently looking at kick-starting a day shelter program to help move people inside from the congregation on the property outside Rotary House.

“A place where we have centralized services, intakes, where we are able to provide assessments and services for people who are street engaged or facing homelessness.”

Manuel adds that while it will be similar to the day shelter offered by the Saint Lawrence Centre, it won’t be a direct replacement for it.

“This would provide the services the Saint Lawrence Centre provided, it will encompass a component of that. We have kind of a group of subject matter experts who are involved, [but] we haven’t specifically committed to any agency per se.”

- Advertisement -

It’s hoped the project will be up and running by sometime in the fall of 2019, but no full timeline, cost, or location details have been made available so far. To get there, Manuel admits many challenges have to be overcome as the City has no easy way of stopping the community of tenters from growing or simply popping up in another area.

While bylaws do not permit camping on public spaces throughout Grande Prairie, staff recently counted no fewer than 37 tents around the city housing at least 66 people. Those currently camping in a public space face a weekly standoff with bylaw officials, with enforcement officers giving 24-hour notice to remove tents and items.

If action has not been taken, the individuals could be ticketed. Manuel says in most instances, both tents and personal items, including needles, garbage, and human waste, are often left behind. Manuel adds anything that appears to be junk is tossed away, but anything that is identified as valuable, like ID cards and wallets, are stored for pick up. The City acknowledges one occurrence of ID being thrown out in 2019.

Two members of Grande Prairie’s street-engaged population approached Grande Prairie city council on August 12th, urging members to take action on a lack of affordable housing and the usefulness of similar available programs. Manuel says between April 2018 and March 2019, 126 members of the population were placed in affordable housing options. Of those 126, 82 per cent remained housed, with 22 people transitioning into permanent housing.

The Saint Lawrence Centre closed its doors at the end of March 2019 to give the Rotary House overnight shelter some time to sort out overcrowding issues. It has been looking for a new location, but Project Lead Jarden Gossen said in July that it would open up again at Rotary House at least on a temporary basis this winter.

“It’s looking like we can plan to have a backup of the Saint Lawrence Centre returning to partner with the Rotary House and provide the drop-in services at our old location at least for the winter months.”

Rotary House was also recently forced by the provincial government to cut its emergency shelter population to get back to maximum population. The number of homeless people counted in the city went up by 80 per cent between 2016 and 2018, which has been attributed in part due to an increase in drug use and a higher than normal transient population coming into Grande Prairie.

- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -
- Advertisement -

Continue Reading