Letters to the Editor

Clarifiying the role of the Friendship Centre re: homelessness

(This letter is in response to ‘No easy answers on homelessness,’ which appeared in the Sept. 16 Lakeside Leader)

To the Editor:

To my dismay it seems that some (town) council members did not report to council correctly on September 8th town council meeting. This is concerning given the gravity of what was being shared as “news”.

It almost seems that it was a certain narrative that they wanted in print to rally the troops as opposed to informing the community accurately. If it were to inform then it would have been good sense to ask more information from the Friendship Centre Director or at the very least a little clarification and accuracy of facts to present to the community.

I feel it necessary to clarify a few things.

How could it be unclear who has been the chair or the lead of the homeless? If you attend meetings regularly and read the minutes it is very clear who has been leading this for many years. If you attend once well then your scope of information is very limited.

To clarify an incorrect assumption that we do not know the numbers of homeless we keep a count in two ways; one is with the “Point in Time” count. It was last done in 2015 and will be done again this year later in the month. If people would like to know more about this please use this link https://www.7cities.ca/ .

The second is of course our diligent daily counts over the years taken at the centre, both in the centre itself and the Mat program. I would suggest that maybe some people within the community do not know who the homeless are but we at the Friendship Centre are very familiar.

It is true there seems to be more homelessness, but this is true across the country not just in our own back yard. It has been on the radar of the Alberta government for some time I would suggest looking at this link for more information of the subject. https://www.alberta.ca/homelessness-response.aspx#toc-1.

Again, if you only come to one meeting then it’s clear that you would not know who the homeless are but at the Friendship Centre we do. We have been taking counts and notes for years; much of this is discussed in our meetings which are well attended. There has only been a small downturn in meeting numbers for a few months because of COVID 19, but still good given the circumstances. If you really want to know more or be part of the answer, we are always looking for volunteers.

So the idea that we don’t know who many of the homeless are is ridiculous. We take time daily with our clients. This can include one or more of the following: meals, clothing, showers, and social interaction.

The “factor that came to light” about people stealing hand sanitizer for its alcohol content is inflammatory and disingenuous. Do we know for sure, who and where and when? People with addiction issues could potentially steal hand sanitizer, but that would be a very small side note and odd that it would be noted for any relevancy but again to add to a stereotype and add to the narrative you are trying to create. Also, your article states you do not know who the homeless are, so how can you know who steals this sanitizer?

One point that Councillor King made is true, that if you have all the resources in place not everyone will use them or use all of them. That is half-hearted and defeatist language when speaking about vulnerable people. “Can’t help all of them so we won’t help one of them?”

Slave Lake currently does not have mental health, addictions, and housing resources in one place nor does it have them separately in a state that would currently help specifically the Indigenous and youth sector, which is growing at an exponential rate not only here but throughout the province.

Councillor King was incorrect about two things; one is that she ever chaired the Homeless Coalition in Slave Lake and two that the Friendship Centre doesn’t have homelessness in its mandate.

The Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre strives to be a leader in the community by offering programs and service to our less fortunate and vulnerable community members. In offering to serve those in need during any types of disasters to other communities the Friendship Centre opens its doors.

Barb Courtorielle
Executive Director
Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre

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