Barb Courtorielle, of the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre, gave her take of the recently released University of Calgary’s study of rural homelessness in Slave Lake.
Courtorielle started off by saying that she was disappointed that there were no numbers that reflect the level of homelessness in the community in the report. All that the report did state was that there are homeless people in Slave Lake.
The report found that people are viewing homelessness in different ways. Courtorielle agreed with the finding, saying that a lot of people didn’t believe that there were homeless in Slave Lake. When the Mat Program was first rolled out in 2014, 15 people were using it. That was the maximum capacity.
Courtorielle said that some of the homeless population don’t appear as such. This includes people who do not have a home but are staying with someone.
“There is a huge number out there of couch surfers,” she said.
The Mat Program currently has only had seven people use it but Courtorielle reports that those numbers are climbing.
“I know they’re out there,” she said. “They are just staying at people’s places now.”
That being said, Courtorielle said she was quite impressed by the research and the way the information was laid out by Associate Director of Academics CNAR and Professor Anne Marie McLaughlin.
As for recommendations, Courtorielle hopes that some kind of transition housing initiative can come to fruition. She feels there is room in the community and there is potential to house at least four out of the seven people that use the Mat Program if there was transition housing. She added she would need to work with these people on mental health, addictions and budgeting.
“If you could get to work with them I sure we could get these people housed,” she said.
Courtorielle said it is important to try and find some affordable housing. She mentioned she works with a senior who can only afford $600 a month for rent. This may be a common situation for an individual or family trying to survive on minimum wage.
Overall, Courtorielle feels the study will pay off because it shows a way forward. She feels that people will listen to McLaughlin’s recommendations. She also felt honoured and proud that the Friendship Centre was recognized as a leader in the community in the fight against homelessness.