RCMP seeing ‘a huge reduction in vagrancy’
September 24, 2020 meeting
Barb Courtorielle, executive director of the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre chaired the meeting.
Mat Program location
The Mat Program provides a place to sleep out of the cold in the winter on mats on the floor.
(Last meeting, the coalition announced it is in the process of applying for the various licenses necessary for it to be in the old Parent Link building for the next four years. This is on 3 Ave NE Slave Lake).
Courtorielle clarified the funding for the program. There is four years of funding for rent, food, and security, from one grant. A new grant covers beds, fridge, and stove etc. to set up the old Parent Link. The lease will be for four years.
Even with the beds, there will always be mats on the floor, she said. Some people don’t feel comfortable sleeping on beds.
There was no news on the business permit and bylaw changes which will be required for this to happen.
On Friday, September 23, a group of volunteers went out to find the homeless, couch surfers, and drifters in the area. The goal was to have them fill out surveys. The data from the surveys will be written up into a report.
Town of Slave Lake
Garry Roth, Town of Slave Lake director of community services, reported on the town’s attempts to get more funding.
“There’s interest from the ministry,” he says. “We’re in early, early days.” In the past, most homeless support funding has gone to cities, but the newly renamed Alberta Ministry of Social and Community Services is looking at funding rural projects also.
“We haven’t seen a lot of our homeless in jail,” said Staff Sergeant John Spaans. “We’re seeing a huge reduction in vagrancy.”
RCMP and town by-law officers recently met with town council to come up with a plan for dismantling the various tent communities in the bush. After the meeting, the police stopped by the camp. They only saw two people. However, the homeless often scatter when the police arrive.
“The people we were talking about a year ago,” he said. “We’re not talking about them today.” Many have died or moved on. Now, “we’re dealing primarily with meth and fentanyl.”
Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre
“It’s a totally different crowd,” said Courtorielle. “Yeah, we enable them. We enable them to have food, clothing, and showers.” She said it’ who the homeless are is changing.
“They’re in every town. The homeless are here. I don’t give up hope for people. They have the right for us to let them succeed. I’m looking for partners. It has to be a community effort.”
The homeless fall into three general categories: those without a home (homeless), couch surfers, and drifters.
“People who are momentarily displaced,” said Steve Castets, one of the Mat Program security guards. Some get dropped off at the bus stop at 2:30 and have no where to go. “We’re still feeding them, giving them dry socks.”
Some are people “walking from Grande Prairie to some place in Saskatchewan,” said Spaans.