A proposal to implement transitional housing and wrap-around services for the homeless population in Lac La Biche was declined by Council during this week’s meeting.
The idea of having transitional housing and wrap-around services will be revisited once a community board is formed and there are partnerships with provincial and federal agencies.
The discussion around the proposal and the issues Lac La Biche has had with homelessness was one of the longer discussions of the day, council also had to break for a closed session to talk about the issue further before returning to a public meeting.
“I knew that it was going to be a long discussion, and I don’t think a lot of people quite understand everything that goes into an issue like this, but that’s how we learn by having an engagement,” said Lac La Biche Mayor, Omer Moghrabi.
Darrell Lessmeister, Senior Manager of Recreation and Community Development, and Anita Polturak, FCSS Supervisor, presented the proposal to Council in the hopes to reduce homelessness in Lac La Biche and help those that have been struggling with trauma, addiction, and other causes that prevent them from having a stable living condition.
Moghrabi agrees that wrap-around services are needed for the homeless population in the hamlet, and he acknowledges that there is not enough funding going into rural areas to address the issue.
“A lot of money gets put into urban centers, but very rarely is money getting put into rural Alberta,” said Moghrabi.
“Who it really should fall on is the federal and provincial governments. Municipality facilities are doing everything they can do.”
Moghrabi used to work as the Dean of Residence for Portage College, and has dealt with students struggling with homelessness.
He believes it is a multi-layer issue, and it will take more resources to address such a complex problem.
“We do need wraparound services, and everyone says social services, but we are dealing with people who have mental health issues, addictions, and some just are homeless,” said Moghrabi.
“We can’t ignore them, but we have to be strategic in terms of getting the funding and getting the right services.”
Before Council can approve of having transitional housing and wrap-around services, they are wanting to come up with a better plan that will be more effective in the long run.
“I think the first thing we need to do is talk to our provincial and federal governments, we have to approach them with a plan,” said Moghrabi.
“At the end of the day it will cost money, but do you pay a little money now or do you pay a lot after? It saves you money if you can get people off the streets, have them become working citizens, taxpayers, at the end of the day that’s our goal, for them to work, have jobs, and have families.”
Following what Council recommends, administration will be in contact with agencies and staff to gain more information about what the right course of action is to tackle the homelessness problem in Lac La Biche.