Letters to the Editor from Barb Courtorielle and Jule Asterisk

Some background on the Community Friendship Temporary Mat Program

To the Editor:

The ‘Mat Program’ was initiated in the spring of 2015 and has run in Slave Lake each year since that time. This program provides overnight shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Slave Lake during the winter months. It was meant to be temporary, until the Housing First program could be implemented for Slave Lake and continue to include it.

Initially located in St. Peter’s Ecumenical Church (the old building), the Mat Program moved to the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre for the winter of 2019/20. At the Friendship Centre, the Mat Program was hosted in the unfinished Youth Centre part of the building. The Youth Centre is now fully developed and beginning operations; as such, it is no longer available or an appropriate location to serve people experiencing homelessness.

Truth be told, neither of these locations was ideal, as some participants in the Mat Program face extreme mobility challenges and both prior locations have steep stairs.

The following are specific requirements for the Mat Program. Thank you for your assistance in finding a home for this crucial, compassionate, life-saving program.

No stairs for guests

1,500 square feet (approximately)

two bathrooms and one kitchen area.

This last item needs a sink, a fridge and counters, but not necessarily a stove. Food is often prepared elsewhere and simply re-heated by volunteers or security guards.

Ideally, the Town of Slave Lake will re-examine its recent denial of a re-zoning application of provincial property at 213, 3rd Ave. NE. The Friendship Centre has an arrangement with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to rent this property for the purposes of serving people experiencing homelessness.

The Mat Program is now operating out of the Friendship Centre’s hall, impacting other programs that ordinarily take place there, so other options will also be considered.

During the past year, the Mat Program has hosted 71 individual male and 33 individual female guests from Slave Lake and surrounding areas, and also from all over Alberta and even other provinces. Without this program, more people would not have been able to last the winter in Slave Lake, which would reflect poorly on our town, to say nothing of potentially incurring liability for people’s demise.

Barb Courtorielle and Jule Asterisk
Slave Lake

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