Keeping members of Wetaskiwin’s homeless community out of the cold is an action City councillors feel strongly about.
That’s why they voted last week to dedicate up to $65,000 to cover the operational costs from opening through March 31, 2020 for an emergency shelter at the Civic building. City administrators will be working with one of two organizations, Hope Mission or the Lighthouse Church, to get the shelter up and running quickly with the cold weather already here.
“While setting up an emergency shelter again for our vulnerable population is a great first step, it remains just that – a first step,” said Mayor Tyler Gandam. “The City will continue to seek financial support from the provincial government, as well as from neighbouring communities.”
Time is of the essence
Both service provider groups provided council with their estimated costs for what it would take to operate the shelter. But due to the cold weather Wetaskiwin is expecting – the forecast calls for minus temperatures overnight all this week – the City plans to give preference to the group that is able to get the shelter up and running in the shortest amount of time.
Shelter’s presence eased hospital workload
The shelter in the Civic building was open for three months early this year, starting Feb. 5, and its presence had a significant effect on the work done by emergency services providers. Not only was there a large decrease in the number of calls for service received by the RCMP while the shelter was open, local hospital visits were also reduced, according to Alberta Health Services.
Making it work for all parties
The presence of the shelter in the Civic building was not without its challenges, notes Mayor Gandam, which is why the City will work hard to address specific issues that arose during the opening earlier this year.
“Council recognizes there were also challenges experienced by the greater community while the shelter was open, including increased loitering and public intoxication in Wetaskiwin’s downtown core,” he says. “Our commitment to keeping Wetaskiwin a secure, connected, and inclusive community remains a priority, and we will be working with those impacted by the location of the shelter.”
Long-term plan to be worked out
Also at the Nov. 12 council meeting, City Administration was directed by Council to examine broader, long-term solutions for addressing community issues such as homelessness, mental health and addictions. A full report is expected to be brought before Council by April 27, 2020. You can watch for updates at wetaskiwin.ca and follow what’s new at the City’s Facebook page.