Homeless navigation and support center in the works for Calgary: Smith

The province plans to expand the concept to Calgary to address the needs of the city’s homeless population.

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Two months after a navigation and support center was established in Edmonton in response to the growing number of illegal homeless encampments in the city, a similar facility is in the works for Calgary.

Prime Minister Danielle Smith and Seniors, community and social services Minister Jason Nixon revealed that information on Tuesday, during a press conference that focused on the first operations in the new facilities in Edmonton.

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The province plans to expand the concept to Calgary to address the needs of the city’s homeless population, Nixon said, adding that it will announce more details about the new project in the coming months.

Smith agreed that “there is some interest” among Calgary stakeholders in developing a navigation and support center in Alberta’s largest city.

“I think we’ve found with Edmonton that the one access point that allows people to get into a center that can provide them with multiple services is a model that needs to be replicated,” he said, adding that the province will open similar centers where statistics show that They are justified.

Danielle Smith
Premier Danielle Smith speaks to the Alberta Municipalities Spring 2024 Municipal Leaders Caucus in Edmonton, Friday, March 15, 2024. David Bloom/Postmedios

The Edmonton Navigation and Support Center opened its doors in mid-January. While it was originally intended as a temporary measure, Nixon confirmed Tuesday that the facility will operate permanently.

It was designed to act as a one-stop reception center, with a triage system to accommodate displaced residents.

The goal of the site is to provide a central location where people evicted from illegal homeless encampments can access the resources they need to break the cycle, according to Smith.

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People evicted from those camps can take free transportation to access the center’s health services, showers and food, while also connecting with social service workers to receive emergency shelter, housing and cultural support, and access to centers detoxification.

More than 700 people visited the center in its first two months of operation, resulting in more than 2,200 referrals to services, Nixon said.

In that time, he noted that more than 450 updated government-issued identification documents were provided, nearly 300 people received financial assistance and 200 visited community health workers on site. About 550 visitors have been connected to emergency housing and shelter programs.

Of those 550, Nixon noted that about half have gone to transitional housing, while the other half are still in the shelter system.

Calgary site could operate differently than Edmonton, says Nixon

Nixon told Postmedia on Wednesday that the idea of ​​establishing a navigation center in Calgary was instigated after non-profit groups and municipal representatives approached the province.

Given the different homelessness contexts in the two cities, particularly when it comes to illegal encampments, Nixon said Calgary’s future navigation center will likely operate differently than Edmonton’s.

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“The camp situation in Calgary is not like Edmonton,” he said. “Calgary has chosen to enforce encampment bylaws in that city for a longer period of time.

A newly opened navigation and support center to provide targeted help to Edmontonians currently living in encampments opened in the basement of 10302 107th St. on January 17, 2024. Photo by David Bloom /postmedia

“While the navigation center can be used to help with encampments, I think what you’ll see in Calgary is where we’re headed with Edmonton, that in the longer term, the navigation center will be used as a tool for the homeless population. home in a big way, and not just the camp situation.”

NDP housing critic Janis Irwin said the UCP needs to do more to support Albertans at risk of homelessness.

“I absolutely support efforts to connect homeless people to services, but these must be more than just referrals,” she said. “The challenge is that people are referred to housing, but they don’t actually receive housing.

“What we are asking for is a necessary investment in affordable housing and permanent supportive housing, which we know saves money and lives.”

Homeless advocates in Calgary support the idea

The Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) applauds the province’s decision to create a second resource and navigation centre.

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A statement from the foundation notes the site would provide homeless Calgarians with centralized services access to a range of culturally sensitive services under one roof.

“Calgary Homeless Foundation is committed to working alongside the Government of Alberta to continue building on our strong network of Indigenous partners, community agencies, shelter partners and housing partners with the City of Calgary,” the statement read.

“Additionally, we look forward to leveraging our positive working relationship with the City of Calgary through Extreme Weather Response to offer guidance and support to enhance existing successful collaborations.

Heather Morley, executive director of Calgary-based Inn From the Cold, said her organization would also welcome a local navigation and reception centre.

“By offering immediate access to resources and support services under one roof, individuals and families can gain quick, dignified access to crucial community resources when facing challenges related to mental health, addiction, shelter or housing” Morley said in a statement.

This type of model “could ensure that those who need it receive timely and coordinated assistance,” he added.

-With files from Matthew Black/Edmonton Journal

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