Aug. 27, 2020
While people talk about vagrancy and homeless issues in Slave Lake, how many homeless people are there really?
The Homeless Coalition received a grant to help answer this questions. It is for a ‘point of time’ survey of the homeless in Slave Lake. The grant covers payment to a researcher who will write up the report, but not the people to go out and ask the questions.
Last time, the survey took about 27 volunteers and police officers, said Barb Courtorielle, Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre executive director. The survey was done in 2015 in partnership with a professor at the University of Calgary.
The plan is for teams of three or four people to go out on Friday, September 25 to ask people about their lives. The RCMP and Town of Slave Lake bylaw officers will be involved.
Meet-up is at 5:30 p.m. at the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre. There will be a pizza supper, water and other beverages. Gloves, masks, clipboards, and surveys will be provided. Groups of three or four people will go out from about 6 to 8 p.m.
The groups will go to the homeless camps, downtown, at Corner Stone, and other places.
To volunteer call Lorna at the Friendship Centre 780-849-3039.
Foot patrols, but not a lot of crime
In general, the homeless population in Slave Lake hasn’t been breaking the law.
“Even this winter was a lot better,” said Courtorielle. “It was a good year with the homeless.”
RCMP Sergeant Don Racette said, “There’s one person we see on a regular basis. We’ve increased foot patrols in the camp,” but most people aren’t breaking the law.
Head bylaw officer Mark Becker agreed.
“We’ve been walking the camp for now,” he said. “Leaving well enough alone.”
There have been some complaints from Northern Lakes College.
With the Multi Rec Centre closed for several months and open shorter hours, there’s been more activity around it, said Garry Roth, Town of Slave Lake community services director. “Not that its a problem for our customers,” as the vagrancy is happening after hours. The main issue is garbage left afterward.
“We’ve had a lot of funerals,” said Courtorielle. “We’ve lost quite a few this year. We lost another homeless (person) a couple of weeks ago. She just became homeless this spring.” She overdosed.
Out of town
Many of the homeless are from out of town, said Courtorielle. In August, some were from Trout Lake, Loon Lake, and Atikameg. There are also more young people who used to be couch surfing, who are now on the streets. Some are also from High Level, she assumes this is because they received free hotel rooms and were treated well last year when High Level area was evacuated to Slave Lake because of a forest fire.