July 18th, 2024

Province gives City funds for winter shelter spaces

By Lethbridge Herald on December 5, 2023.

A new temporary shelter space is seen at the site of the Lethbridge shelter on Tuesday. The province has provided the City of Lethbridge $1 million to temporarily increase shelter space during the winter months. Herald photo by Al Beeber

Steffanie Costigan – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The City of Lethbridge is getting $1 million from the provincial government to fund about 50 temporary winter shelter spaces.

Provincial Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services Jason Nixon said Tuesday the government’s priority is to keep the most vulnerable people safe during the winter season in partnership with the Blood Tribe. 

“As we head into the winter months, one of our top priorities is making sure our most vulnerable people have a safe and warm place to stay and access to the supports they need. These additional shelter spaces in Lethbridge are an example of our strong partnership with the Blood Tribe Department of Health that will make a difference in a community with an urgent need,” said Nixon. 

Blood Tribe Department of Health chief operating officer Kash Shade voiced the appreciation for the Government of Alberta’s assistance in helping the most vulnerable.

“Additional shelter capacity for the winter months is critical in Lethbridge given the estimated number of people at risk of experiencing homelessness. We are appreciative of the Alberta government’s commitment to helping the most vulnerable people. The additional space during the winter months also alleviates stress that our shelter staff experience by enabling them to safely and appropriately assist the most vulnerable,” said Shade. 

Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf also said he is grateful the government is investing in more shelter space. 

“These 50 spaces will help some of Lethbridge’s most vulnerable through our coldest months. I’m glad Alberta’s government is also investing in affordable housing and addiction recovery including the recent opening of the Lethbridge Recovery Community as these programs and services are making a better future possible for those currently experiencing homelessness,” said Neudorf. 

“What has happened is a modular trailer unit, much like those that are used up in the oil fields, has been dropped onto the site, and has been set up with, heating and all water and all of those services. The physical footprint of warm space has grown for the Blood Tribe Department of Health to expand their operation into, said Andrew Malcolm, general manager of Community Social Development Tuesday in an online meeting with media.

Malcolm said to his understanding the shelters started operating Tuesday. He said this project has been an ongoing conversation with the Government of Alberta and the Blood Tribe.

“In partnership with the Government of Alberta, who is the operational funder, and the Blood Tribe Department of Health, who is our current operator (of the shelter), we have been engaged in conversations for a number of months working towards this expansion which will be delivered this week,” said Malcolm.

Malcolm said the City of Lethbridge contributed $230,000 of federal Reaching Home funding to the Blood Tribe Department of Health to provide 24-hour warming shelters for the homeless. 

“One of the big pieces beyond the building that the City of Lethbridge is proud to contribute to is something that was approved by city council based on a recommendation of the Cultural and Social SPC on October 31. 

“And that was to allocate $230,000 of federal Reaching Home funding to the Blood Tribe Department of Health to support daytime programming that will be leveraged against the government Alberta funding for the shelter expansion, ultimately providing 24 hour warming option for the most vulnerable in our community,” added Malcolm.

The temporary heating shelters will be open until April of 2024. Whether the shelters remain open after that remains to be seen, said Malcolm.

“Essentially to the end of the 2023-2024, winter season. At that point, it will be dependent on whether there’s ongoing funding in place. So we don’t know. It will be entirely dependent on the Government of Alberta at that point,” he said. 

Funding for the temporary heating shelters is only for this winter, said Malcolm, but conversations on long-term needs and permanent shelter capacity are being held.

“Our focus is on this winter,” he said. 

Malcolm estimated homeless numbers for this year to be around 230 and the expansion puts a dent in the numbers of people who won’t have shelter.

“If we just looked at sheer numbers, this expansion does put a big dent in that number, but likely doesn’t fully cover all individuals in our community experiencing homelessness. So we will have to keep track in partnership with the Blood Tribe Department of Health on capacity levels as the winter and cold weather sets in.

“We’re excited that we’re being able to deliver additional capacity for this winter. And obviously, very grateful for the government of Alberta’s operational funding they have provided and Blood Tribe Department of Health’s ongoing operations of the shelter.”

In a statement, mayor Blaine Hyggen said “ shelter capacity is an urgent issue for our community and we are grateful that we’ve been able to work with the Government of Alberta and Blood Tribe Department of Health to create this additional space. With colder temperatures ahead of us, this will help protect the health and wellness of our most vulnerable residents as we all work together to find more permanent solutions to our housing needs.”

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I applaud the city for their encampment strategy, which did see significant change, but now that has ended we are seeing more temporary encampments with cardboard popping up, especially in Galt Gardens, but the block the Petro Can is on always seems to have 15-20 hanging out all night.
The issue that has to be addressed is that these are the people who refuse to stay in shelters, because they are committing criminal acts, which are restrained if in the shelters. Instead they hang out all night sellling drugs, prostituting their ‘wives’, damaging property, breaking and entering, spraying graffiti and we have seen an increase in these area of break and enters due to cooler temperatures. This is the norm in winter . . . they break and enter and if they find vacant homes or businesses, they stay there, often lighting fires on the floors to stay warm, as we have seen many times where it ended in structure fires.
They are not the truly homeless, but the criminals and as stated by police, most have weapons, not guns in most cases, but knifes, machetes, even rocks and steel bars they weaponize.
This needs to be addressed!
I am happy that Andrew Malcolm clarified the actual homeless numbers, 230 . . . media has been using the inflated 485 figures from a slanted survey which included people incarcerated, in treatment, in hospital and put into question the validity of the numbers. Not much trust left after seeing them inflate the numbers!
In the past week I am personally aware of 2 fatal overdoses and 2 break and enters within a block of the Petro Can, one OD right on their property and the B&E across the street at a denture clinic. Where ever these people hang out, crime occurs and death.
It is a lie that it is safer in groups, sleeping on the streets, because if I have personally watched one of them overdose, and the others go into their pockets to take their drugs and money, even taking their personal belongings and running away . . . did they phone for EMS . . . I doubt it!
Businesses downtown have been hit hard from the impacts of the drug crisis and many from out of town refuse to come downtown because of the issues.
Yes, we are doing better than other cities, but that is because of many dedicated people fought hard with various levels of governments do say we will not allow this in our city! It is our city and we do have a choice.
City Council and administration have made some good changes and now realize we can take back our city and regain the peace we once had.
I trust Andrew Malcolm, and know a plan will come forth to end this crime faction who hang out on our streets all night and sleeping in the park in the day. I was disgusted walking through the park and seeing all the people sleeping and garbage strewn all over 2 days ago. Last week I sat and ate lunch in Galt Gardens by the playground and had a group come over and try to intimidate me as I ate. I ignored them . . . but others may have challenged them, and then what? They act as if they own the park, which is the same when they were encamped by city hall . . . they thought they owned it.
The people I speak of are not the truly homeless! They are the criminals who give the truly homeless a bad name! They are also the ones where we see the highest fatal overdoses in this city so are we doing them any favours by allowing them to hang out all night committing criminal acts?
It is your tax dollars paying for all the clean up, the damages, the fire/EMS/police manpower needed. If you have ever witnessed a fatal overdose on the streets, there are multiple EMS/fire members on scene, with several police/CPO’s and once all efforts to save the patient failed, several law enforcement have to stay onscene to protect the scene, waiting hours for the criminal investigations unit to document it and after that for a medical examiner to arrive and investigate. The remains are there for hours and the manpower costs are high. It isn’t just they died and are taken to hospital.
I am tired of watching these needless deaths, and harm reduction has proven to be a complete failure! We must return to what worked in the past to dramatically reduce these deaths and crime . . . taking a hard stance against drugs and increasing law enforcement to go after the increased gangs and organized crime who have flourished and increased in numbers from this crisis. They are the biggest benefactors . . . all at the costs of thousands of human lives and billions in tax dollars.
We can build enough shelter space to house another 1,000 people, but that will fill up as people flow in from other communities! It is been proven in other cities!
We must start focusing on the real issue! Going after the drug dealers, gangs, organized criminals and enforcing laws that prevent the loitering, sleeping in the streets and in business doorways! We must increase effective drug treatment availability and change our judicial and penal systems, which are a joke! How can you rehabilitate someone in a penetentiary with a safe drug consumption site in it? How are the illegal drugs getting in? If we cannot secure a jail . . . we should be ashamed!
This article shows the even Edmonton Police understand the criminal elements on the streets in their encampment issues. We had success with the encampment strategy here but it ended and winter plans are now in effect, but people are encamping in Galt Gardens and businesses, temporarily . . . the criminals who commit crimes at night!
New approach is needed for dealing with encampments: Edmonton police chief – https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/new-approach-is-needed-for-dealing-with-encampments-edmonton-police-chief/vi-AA1l5w4m?ocid=socialshare&pc=ACTS&cvid=32f8a39c4b8c4caf8177e60cc46e2f15&ei=33

Last edited 7 months ago by ewingbt