June 24th, 2024

Streets Alive responds to outreach program concerns

By Lethbridge Herald on February 22, 2023.

Lethbridge city council is considering providing additional funding to Streets Alive Mission for outreach programming. Herald photo by Ry Clarke

Ry Clarke – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Lethbridge city council will consider providing additional funding to Streets Alive Mission for outreach programming in an upcoming meeting.

That monies will be up to $215,460 annually from Reaching Home federal funding. In a 2-1 vote, the Cultural and Social Standing Policy Committee (SPC) last Thursday passed a recommendation onto council which would see additional funding for the group until 2026. 

This brought a strong response from a member of city council, John Middleton-Hope, who is not a member of the SPC but was present at the meeting who questioned the capability of Streets Alive in conducting the programming in light of how it handled the warming centre during Dec. 2022.

“Until we get more information on how Streets Alive will deliver these services. I’m not satisfied that there is proof they have the expertise, the experience, or the resources,” said Middleton-Hope during the meeting. 

“Given our experience with Streets Alive and the warming centre, which was a colossal waste of money, and they were unable to deliver their services as contracted, why would we consider funding the initiative where their experience is clearly in question?”

Chuck LeBlanc, chairman of the board of Streets Alive, said remarks like the councillor’s negatively affect the work the organization is doing.

“There seems to be, at least amongst two councillors, some kind of belief that we, after a week or two of operating the warming centre, abandoned it. Which is blatantly not true,” said LeBlanc.

“We ran that warming centre through the coldest part of December, for the month of December. On January 4, a decision was made to pivot,” said LeBlanc. “As the weather warms, we ended up with a situation where the numbers of people grew outside our doors, because it was warmer.

“In our opinion that was not a good situation, especially for our neighbours. So that is when the decision as made for us to take a look at the situation and meet with city officials, and our stakeholders in the neighbourhood. . . It was decided that we would pivot from running a comfort centre to a 24-hour outreach. That is what happened, the contract, we didn’t walk away from anything.”

LeBlanc adds the comments made my Middleton-Hope express a lack of knowledge for the funding allocation request.

“His understanding and the statements he made, they express a lack of understanding of the situation,” said LeBlanc. “This meeting that took place last week for the SPC was not to issue funding. The program has been funded since July last year. It was to extend funding and the topic was a discussion on whether it is going to be completed in the city or if the federal government has some funding available. Whereas the funds for this contract have been issued, the contract has been signed and we have been operating under that contract since January 1.”

Streets Alive responded to a RFQ from the City last year around July when it was looking to expand its services for homelessness. “My understanding is that we were the only ones that responded to it,” said LeBlanc.

 “In January, our outreach team had a total of 5,533 interactions with people on the street. When I say we had interaction, I’m saying we are conducting wellness checks, offering them water or a hot beverage, we give them a protein pack. . . We also transported 24 individuals to the hospital in January. We also have a good working relationship with many agencies in the city. 

“We had 500 referrals, we sent people to the International Red Cross, Blood Tribe Shelter, soup kitchen and food banks. We have a great relationship with Foothills detox and have helped 13 people get off the street and into treatment facilities. And those are our outside services, we still a whole slew of internal services too.”

LeBlanc says Streets Alive has been operating in Lethbridge for 34 years, working alongside the city with its programming. 

“This is what drives me nuts, we have got three or four contracts with the city, doing different services, and the city is helping us do these things, too. But apparently one or more of the councillors has no clue that any of this is happening,” said LeBlanc. “We are more than capable, more than qualified to provide these services.”

Streets Alive was not represented at the SPC meeting when the comments were made about the organization. LeBlanc says they did not see a need to be at the meeting since the funding was already issued. 

“In our mind it was the determination of recommending on how the funding was going to be allocated from what pot,” said LeBlanc, adding they were not there to refute the comments made against Streets Alive.

The March 7 council meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. in City Hall.

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I wonder if anyone really understands the monumental task it is to deal with the clients who you help. The threats, the anti-social behaviours, the property damage, the graffiti, the overdoses, the drug use, the theft and many other issues you had to deal with when you tried to give up to 60 (all you had room for and stated so) people a place to warm up and it turned into 100 who had complete disrespect for your compassion and help.
It is a tough job and I know just how aggressive, lawless and disrespective the street people have become in the last 18 months from dealing with them in my job!
I think Council really needs to understand this! The encampments and allowing them to do whatever they want on our streets had conditioned them to be wild, almost feral displaying anti-social behaviours, criminality and disgusting, including dangerous behaviours which have seen properties burned, seniors assaulted and robbed, washrooms taken over by addicts who bath in the sinks and the toilet, and on and on . . . This is what happens when you throw up your hands and say there is nothing we can do!
The leadership of the city have failed and someone tries to help like Streets Alive and they are the scapegoat??? Look no further than your collegues in the Council Chambers and the LPS!
What did you expect? They are not going away and laws need to be enforced and actions taken to take back our City!
This Council was elected because they said they would bring change!
Council is supposed to work with federal and provincial governments in dealing with issues that go beyond their scope to find a solution. If laws need to be changed to protect our city and citizens they need to bring those concerns to the feds or province.
I really do not think anyone on Council actually has any idea as to how difficult it is dealing with the street people when many are only there to commit crimes!
One thing is for sure . . . many of us are tired and have had enough!! Demands are not going away for our city to be taken back from these criminals and those demands will get louder as time passes!

Dennis Bremner

Totally agree! If the city Council wants to be of assistance then they should set out a standard. If when offering assistance to people for free and those people decide they have the right to act out, then there should be a method to remove them, let them sit out in the cold for a bit to calm down before receiving the services again.
This hand holding of people who just want to create trouble for groups like Streets Alive has to cease and desist. If we cannot teach some level of personal responsibility to these people at this level how the hell do we expect to progress them into a normal life?
Rules should be posted and adhered too. If you choose to do otherwise there has to be consequences!

Last edited 1 year ago by Dennis Bremner