Athabasca Cares sees tiny homes as an emergency solution as it continues to seek funding
ATHABASCA – The Athabasca Cares Community Housing Society is working to have at least one temporary housing solution for Athabasca’s homeless population before next winter.
Society Treasurer Lisa Allen was at the Athabasca City Council meeting on March 1 to give officials an overview of some of the work that has been done, what they hope to accomplish in 2022, and to urge the advice to get as involved as possible, starting with identifying a property that could be used for any business solution.
“Our vision is for everyone in our community to have safe and affordable housing, so it’s very simple,” she said. “Our Mission: We exist to initiate and perpetuate zero functional homelessness as an integral and achievable part of our community.”
Allen said the company aims to cover the entire Athabasca region, including Calling Lake, and provide customer-focused services because homelessness has many faces and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. To do this, the group gathers research from the field and communicates with other communities about the options they have considered to achieve the same goal. She said ACCHS would also like to see a number of shelters in different communities in the region who could coordinate their services.
Some of the things they are considering range from tiny houses and shelter pods that have recently been advertised. In Lac La Biche, where a number of small huts have been set up, it seems to be working well, while the shelters set up in Edson had some initial problems getting off the ground, she said.
“When you’re dealing with new solutions, sometimes issues pop up that you weren’t aware of,” she said. “Our main focus is this emergency shelter and so we’re really hoping to be able to fundraise, get grants, go beg, whatever, we don’t really care. We just want to see an emergency shelter for the next winter.
She added that the community has been very supportive, providing $3,500 through a silent auction over the holidays, which not only raised funds but also raised awareness.
ACCHS is also taking an approach that will not require clients to be clean and sober to obtain shelter.
“Some communities have shelters where clients should not be under the influence, but we believe it is extremely difficult, especially for people who have substance abuse issues and/or mental health issues, to dry off during that they are in the street.”
Funding to start a project has been hard to come by, she said, noting that a recent meeting with Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock MPP Glenn van Dijken didn’t go as well as it did. hoped, saying she didn’t think he was “too supportive.”
“Urban homelessness and rural homelessness – those are two separate things,” Allen said. “Urban homelessness receives funding, rural homelessness in Alberta does not. So it’s a real it’s a real problem.
Mayor Rob Balay noted that he had also spoken with van Dijken and found that there were probably funds available for rural homelessness projects, but there must be community involvement which shows the amount of the local support for an initiative. This could include letters from councils and service groups, or surveys and statistics regarding the local situation.
“We need to have a plan in place, they’re not just going to come and give us money because we’re going to do this or that. They want to see the plan. So maybe that’s something we can help with,” Balay said.
Com. Ida Edwards said she had information that should be discussed behind closed doors, so a motion to that effect was approved.
The Board accepted the delegation for information, but the administration will schedule a future meeting with the group to discuss the options in more detail.