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Friday , 25 September 2020

Bonnyville waiting on grant for temporary homeless shelter

Bonnyville could soon be home to a temporary homeless shelter thanks to its Native Friendship Centre.

The Centre has applied for a provincial CIP (Community Initiatives Program) grant to fund a temporary homeless shelter just behind Main Street for six months.

Janet Gobert said that with help from the Bonnyville and District FCSS and volunteers, they’ve identified 10 homeless members of the community, who are more vulnerable due to the pandemic.

“We’ve thought about it for a period of time and with the COVID-19 pandemic we knew we had to provide shelter for our vulnerable population and that’s what sort of kickstarted it,” said Gobert.

“When it comes to homelessness in the community, I think a person needs to understand its definition, which would be an unsheltered location, be it public or private and where they’re staying without consent or even a contract. It also entails couchsurfing,” she said.

“Now, regarding our vulnerable sector, we do have approximately 10 individuals right now that are sleeping on the street or couch surfing.”

The temporary shelter could house up to seven people and users will be strongly encouraged to enrol in other Friendship Centre programs to help them get on their feet.

The application for the shelter came to Town Council’s Tuesday morning where councillors decided to leave it to the new economic development officer to give final approvals on the project because of council’s slowed summer schedule.

“The need for a homeless shelter is something that’s been discussed many, many times over the last year, and council was fully in support of the Bonnyville Friendship Centre setting up this homeless shelter,” said councillor Brian McEvoy on The Morning After.

The Friendship Centre will find out on July 27 whether they’ll receive the grant.

Should they receive the funds, plans will turn to keeping the shelter open beyond six months, according to Gobert.

“In addition to that, even though it is a temporary shelter, we can’t demand that they take part in programming, but our intention is to strongly encourage that they would take part in our employment strategy program here at the center,” she said.

“We had also appropriate referrals to outside programs and services, hopefully that they could gain meaningful employment and a permanent residence.”

Clients will be screened for drugs and alcohol before being allowed into the shelter.

There would also be daytime and nighttime attendants and a security system in place.

Homelessness, said McEvoy, is an issue that’s been difficult to acknowledge in Bonnyville.

“I’ve noticed an increase as well over the years. We don’t want to acknowledge it as a community, but it does exist and they are part of our community. And we need to put in place programs and support programs that can address that need,” he said.

Councillor Chad Colbourne said he’s in support of this shelter.

“If we take a look around the community in the past few weeks, we’ve seen for a few more wandering our streets just as recently as later last week there’s a couple of folks sleeping on park benches.

“I think this is a great application.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connect Media. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.