Friendship Centre tries to enlist town in homeless strategy

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Can homelessness be eliminated in Slave Lake? Jamie Linington of the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre thinks so. As she explained to town council last week, it would happen in three stages. The first – already in place – is an overnight stay program to prevent “loss of limbs or life.” The second is called ‘transitional housing,’ which involves 24-hour supervision and the third is independent housing.
All it takes is money.
“We need core operating funds for rural Alberta,” Linington told council.
Such funding currently exists only for Alberta’s seven largest cities to tackle homelessness. Nothing so far for smaller centres. To Linington and others that is not acceptable.
“The homeless person in Slave Lake is just as valuable and in need as the one in Edmonton,” Linington said. “We are ready to put the pieces together, but we won’t until we have core funding – ideally federal, provincial and municipal.”
Asked what the next steps might be, Linington said a funding agreement with the town would be nice. How about $30,000? Having that would shake loose some federal money, she said.
Anticipating leeriness about spending taxpayers’ money on such things, Linington pointed out that, “Your tax money is already going to it,” in policing costs, health care costs and so on. Those costs are being tracked in a study being done by the University of Alberta, focusing on Slave Lake’s homeless. Armed with that information, “we’re going to lobby,” Linington said, inviting the town to participate.
Council was interested but made no commitments. Mayor Tyler Warman urged Linington and her task force to work with town administration to come up with a proposal.
“We want to understand it better to tell if we have a role to play,” he said.
Linington ended the session by confidently predicting “there will be funding,” for rural homelessness, and that if Slave Lake makes its case well, “we might be one of the first,” to get it.

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