Since last fall, the question of where the Mat Program will be held has been up in the air. As of August 27, it is moving forward with the paperwork to move into the old Parent Link building on 3 Ave. NE in Slave Lake.
The Mat Program provides a place for the homeless to sleep in the winter. This last winter it was temporarily housed in the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre.
“I know it can’t go back here,” said Friendship Centre executive director Barb Courtorielle at the Aug. 27 Homeless Coalition meeting. This decision comes down from the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Associations.
Courtorielle and Garry Roth, from the Town of Slave Lake, applied for and have tentatively received funding to add a six foot fence and do some maintenance of the Parent Link building.
“We basically have it (the funding),” said Courtorielle. “They just want to make sure we have the funds in place for rent and utilities.”
The remaining four years of the five year grant the Mat Program received last year covers wages for one security guard, utilities, and some paper products.
After the meeting, Courtorielle planned to send the business license and fee to the town to start the process of getting the permits for having the Mat Program in that location.
Last fall, the Mat Program ran into problems at this stage, when the Municipal Planning Commission denied their permit to once again house the program in its former location. This is when the program was moved to the Friendship Centre.
The new location will also require a town bylaw change.
Town of Slave Lake councillor Joy McGregor was at the meeting.
“I don’t forsee it going easy,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of convincing. We need to go fast so we can get that public hearing as soon as possible.”
The Mat Program usually opens on November 1. This leaves just over two months to get the permit, bylaw change and to do the renovations.
If the Mat Program is allowed to move to the old Parent Link centre, it will be with a four-year lease. The Mat Program will be in the basement.
If things come together, in the future, the upstairs could be used as a transitional housing. Courtorielle is in conversation with Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centre, which is an Indigenous addiction treatment centre near Edmonton.