The Slave Lake Business Support Network hosted its 11th meeting last week.
Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre (SLNFC) Executive Director Jamie Linington spoke about local homelessness and the SLNFC’s efforts to eradicate rural homelessness.
“We’re behind where we want to be at this point,” she said. “There was an election recently and when that happens the funding gets put on hold. We were put back about a year and a half – I had to make some tough decisions this year between hiring a Housing First co-ordinator and hiring security to run our Mat program.”
Linington added, “Our Mat program ran this year – I truly believe we are saving lives by doing this. Before it started we’ve would come to the office in the morning and find people sleeping at our door. Sometimes we didn’t know if they were alive or dead because they were freezing.”
According to Linington, situations such as those put a strain on the local healthcare system, police detachment and cause the Friendship centre to have liability issues.
“We know money talks, so we decided to track one guy for three months – $35,000 – that’s what it cost just for a hospital bed and the nurse,” she said. “At the Mat program we provide them with essential needs – food, shelter,water – and we can do an assessment on them. I truly believe we are saving lives.”
Though homelessness does a play a part in straining social resources, Linington says it can also play a negative role around businesses.
“I can remember when I use to have more of a nightlife, I had to use RBC when I am with Scotiabank because the ATM doors were locked,” she said. “Over time those bank fees would add up and that’s just for me.”
Brittany Giesbrecht, president of the Slave Lake and District Chamber of Commerce and owner of Thrive Wellness, was curious how businesses could show their support.
“Lobby your provincial and federal government!” said Linington. “Show that this issue does affect you as a business owner here in rural Alberta.”
Another piece of advice Linington gave attendees was to really think about where their sponsorship funds are going.
“What’s more important? Enough sumo soccer,” she chuckled. “You need to think about the social return on investments.”