Recently, the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) announced more than $3.7 million of funding for 12 projects in 11 rural Albertan communities. Through the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home program, the new five-year federal homelessness prevention and reduction strategy, this funding will help Alberta’s rural and remote communities provide their residents with increased access to services that prevent and reduce homelessness and housing instability.
According to a recent media release, the ARDN managed the Rural and Remote stream of funding for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (the predecessor to Reaching Home) during the 2014-2019 period, which resulted in 32 projects being funded in rural Alberta.
Two projects receiving funds in the Fort Macleod area include the Foothills Centre and Fort Macleod and District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS).
Foothills Centre received $459,106. The centre is a social detox that will operate five transitional beds for individuals with addictions who have completed the detox program and are waiting to access in-patient treatment. In addition to offering a safe environment, the program also provides life skills, psycho-education group sessions and community volunteering opportunities.
FCSS received $387,772. The Fort Macleod Housing and Community Connects project will prevent homelessness and reduce housing instability for families, individuals and youth in its region. The project will connect individuals to housing and appropriate services. The Fort Macleod Housing Committee will strengthen agency partnerships to support a more effective network of wrap-around services.
Foothills Centre is funded 100 per cent through Alberta Health Services (AHS), said Val Campbell, the centre's executive director. “To provide 11 detox beds. In December of 2016, we were funded four transition beds through ARDN. Transition beds are for homeless individuals who have completed our detox program. They're wanting to go for further treatment and they don't have a safe environment to go to.”
“With that funding, we're able to keep them here in our facility and they go door-to-door from our agency to the treatment centre. We've seen what a great success that program is. For homeless individuals, it's difficult to navigate the recovery system and if you're homeless, it's especially hard to do. This program is a great benefit if an individual wanted to get clean and sober and we're here to help them do that,” Campbell explained.
Campbell noted the funding just received recently is for five transition beds. “We've been able to add one more bed. That will give us funding until 2024. It also pays for a transition liaison worker.”
Transition clients also do volunteer work in the community, Campbell added. “We see that to be a real positive for the community.”
“It's also a really nice boost to the confidence of the client and the support they're getting from the community,” Campbell said, adding it's a win-win situation.
For 2018-2019, there were 122 admissions and out of those 122 admissions, Campbell pointed out, 91 individuals made it to the treatment centre and/or safe housing.
“That program has about a 97 per cent occupancy, which means very rarely do we have an empty bed. It's well used. Part of getting into those beds is you go through our detox. You have to want to make a change in your life. You have to be willing to do the work. We're there to support you through that,” said Campbell.
Angie O’Connor, an FCSS co-ordinator explained, the bulk of the funding is for a housing liaison worker. “They will help families and individuals secure housing and link people to appropriate services.” The new position began in October 2019 and funding will run until February 2024.
This person, O'Connor noted, will also help deepen relationships with different local and regional agencies through community workshops and such to help fill in the gaps with programming and the like.
“It really is a great connector for people. For individuals living in chaos and for a variety of circumstances. If you have housing issues, you can't start to address some of the other things going on in your life,” O'Connor noted, adding some of those other things could include finding a job or going to school.