Alberta South Peace looks into rural homelessness

South Peace municipalities are working together to mitigate homelessness and housing instability with a hope t…

South Peace municipalities are working together to mitigate homelessness and housing instability with a hope to develop local solutions.

The new initiative — Getting to the Root of Rural Insecurity — is meant to develop locally-driven solutions and is being spearheaded by Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) in the County of Grande Prairie and the towns of Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, and Wembley.

Gathering community feedback is a key component.

“We’re beginning to understand housing insecurity looks like across our rural region, and we know that it’s not people living in the street that will typically see,” said Coree Ladwig, county FCSS adult and senior programming team lead.

“Typically, when you look at homelessness in a rural community, you’re looking at people who frequently move and need to stay with friends or relatives.”

But Ladwig says there are individuals with a lack of housing security that need to be addressed also. This could be a circumstance where a majority of income goes to rent payments, leaving little for other expenses such as groceries or major home repairs like a new furnace.

“We need feedback from the community to better understand rural homelessness and housing insecurity,” said Ladwig.

“This helps develop better community-based solutions, and that’s why we would encourage people to come (to the information sessions).”

There will be two opportunities for people to share their experiences with homelessness or housing insecurity: Jan. 20 at Beaverlodge Community Centre from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Jan. 25 at the Wellington Resource Centre in Clairmont from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“It’s an opportunity for persons with lived experience, so persons who are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity within the rural areas to come in and give us feedback,” said Ladwig.

Service providers as well as friends and family of those affected by housing insecurity are also being encouraged to attend the sessions, said Ladwig.

Other options to provided feedback will be also available.

“We can connect people with Centerpoint facilitation to arrange a one-on-one conversation that would be done virtually, and to really reach the greater public we are going to have a survey (open Jan. 26 to Feb. 8),” said Ladwig.

The county’s 2020 Rural Housing and Service Needs Estimation report said, “there are 123 individuals within the county and partnering municipalities that either live in insecure housing conditions or share the same living situation.

“The rural homelessness estimations are an estimation that’s done over a period of one month, typically, where we look to see how many people may identify as being homeless or housing insecure,” said Ladwig.

Following the information sessions, there is a hope to build a new task force that would help support the development of safe and effective solutions, said Ladwig.

For more information from the county on rural homelessness and the upcoming information sessions visit countygp.ab.ca/ruralhomelessness.

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