Letters to the Editor – from Jule Asterisk and Barb Courtorielle

How the ‘Housing First’ program would work in Slave Lake

To the Editor:

In 2014, the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre assembled a multi-stakeholder committee and held meetings on the establishment of a Housing First program for Slave Lake.

Housing First could be the first option for people experiencing homelessness, instead of vagrancy, panhandling, jail or – in the worst-case scenarios – daily hospital visits or death from exposure.

The object of Housing First programs around the world is to show compassion to individuals experiencing homelessness, by offering a warm home and ‘wrap-around’ programming, without expecting people to jump through hoops to get there. As psychologists have noted, when we are not able to tend to our basic needs, we are not capable of further thought or action.

A Housing First program in Slave Lake, as designed by the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre, would incorporate the following:

Staff training by specialists, a requirement for participants to stay on site except for monitored outings, participants to be drawn from the Mat Program (overnight shelter) and others in need of housing in Slave Lake. People would have one year to graduate. Also, direct interaction between Mat Program and Housing First participants would not be encouraged.

Some of those experiencing homelessness in Slave Lake are in this situation for a short while, and will greatly benefit from having access to the resources they need to find permanent housing, work, or a way to get back to family. Others have more complex needs, including addictions and mental health needs that could be served by specially trained personnel not currently available in Slave Lake.

The Friendship Centre has worked with Alberta Rural Development Network since 2015 and has now secured a five-year funding agreement for the Mat Program, plus initial work on Housing First.

Alberta Seniors and Housing had provided a four-year lease agreement for its property at 213 – 3rd St. NE for the Mat Program and transitional housing (Housing First).

The Friendship Centre is working with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on a grant to cover the cost of renovations, furniture and a program coordinator for Housing First and the Mat Program.

Thank you in advance for any assistance you can give the Friendship Centre in finding a location for these much-needed programs for Slave Lake, which is a hub for more than 12,500 people.

Jule Asterisk and Barb Courtorielle
Slave Lake

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