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New study takes aim at rural Grande Prairie homelessness

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A new initiative is hoped to get to the roots of homelessness in rural areas around Grande Prairie. Family and Community Support Services from the County of Grande Prairie and towns of Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, and Wembley have launched a study on rural housing instability and homelessness.

Adult and Senior Programming Team Lead Coree Ladwig says the goal is to come up with solutions that are locally-driven. That starts with open houses to connect with the community.

“We’re really asking residents in the rural communities, especially those who have previously experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity and social service providers… to share their thoughts and their insights.”

In order to reach those with lived experience, FCSS representatives are connecting with service providers, as well as local food banks to encourage them to give their input. Ladwig says they recognize homelessness has a different face in rural areas when compared to bigger cities.

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“In rural communities, you don’t often find a shelter and you don’t often see people living on the street. You see people who move frequently; they’ll need to stay with friends or relatives.”

She notes that instability can also come in the form of spending a larger portion of their income on housing, struggling to pay rent month-to-month, or going without other essentials to afford it. A survey done in 2020 found 42 people in the County of Grande Prairie who identified as homeless or housing insecure.

From the feedback, Ladwig says the plan is to develop a local task force made up of people who have experienced housing insecurity and local service providers to come up with appropriate solutions.

“To better understand what the issues are and what people have tried that have worked, as well as maybe some things that we could be doing better or different.”

The open houses will be held on January 20th at the Beaverlodge Community Centre and on the 25th and the Wellington Resource Centre in Clairmont. Each will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. and people can drop in any time during those hours.

A virtual option is also available by contacting Centrepoint Facilitation. An online survey will follow from January 28th to February 8th on the County of Grande Prairie’s website.

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