The need for a shelter for Slave Lake’s homeless population hasn’t gone anywhere. For now, they are sleeping in the main hall of the Friendship Centre, but this is temporary.
“I don’t know where they are going to go in December, because of Santas Anonymous,” says Friendship Centre Executive Director Barb Courtorielle. To accommodate them in November, she’s already turned away hall rentals which help keep the centre afloat.
Courtorielle also cancelled weekly Elder’s meetings. In December, the hall is full of donated toys, and preparations for the around 200 food hampers done each year. This year she estimates the need to fill hampers for 210 families in need in the area, which is up from the normal of around 189.
“I don’t have the capacity to have it (the Mat Program) here,” says Courtorielle. With COVID, she has “one janitor just cleaning up after them all day.”
Last year, the Mat Program was held in Youth Centre on the second floor of the Friendship Centre.
The location was a problem, says Courtorielle. The security guard couldn’t see the homeless when he opened the door or answered the phone. At least two people couldn’t use the shelter because of the stairs. One had to stay in hospital and the other had to sleep in police custody.
The main reason, however, is that this is mandated as a youth centre, and could only be used for one year, she adds. Now, she is working on applying for grants for a youth coordinator.
Other Friendship Centres in Alberta also run homeless shelters, says Courtorielle. The Lac La Biche Native Friendship Centre had someone donate a beautiful house in a nice neighbourhood. They have only been focusing on the homeless for five months.