A group looking to create a new homeless shelter in the West Flat is trying to rally support from community leaders and the general public for their proposal.
The Indescribable Gift Foundation hopes to build two buildings with a combined 20 beds in individual rooms, plus shower and laundry facilities, a kitchen, and a special needs room on a pair of City-owned lots on the 1000 block of 18th Street West. The new location will be known as the Edwin Pelletier Homeless Centre.
Eddy Fisher, one of the foundation’s three directors, said there is a huge need for more shelters in Prince Albert, and the West Flat was a logical location.
“We’ve got some community organizations we’re working with (and) they know it’s a good idea,” Fisher said during an interview Thursday afternoon. “The more beds the merrier, because all these agencies are full.”
Fisher said they hope to develop a long-term shelter for residents where they can stay more than one day while they get help for addictions or mental health issues. Residents will receive a key for their room, which allows them to leave their possessions inside while they go about their business.
The foundation plans to have a chef on site to cook three meals a day for residents. The shelter will also have security cameras, and an employee on site 24 hours a day.
Fisher said thy want to help residents deal with issues that prevent them from finding jobs and renting their own room or apartment. That means helping them with major challenges, like enrolling in addictions or mental health programs, or simply giving them time to open a bank account and apply for lost ID cards.
Fisher envisions residents staying at the shelter anywhere from 30-90 days. Afterwards, he plans to partner with local low-income housing providers to help the residents move out and find their own home or apartment.
“(Housing) is a need, and it’s all across Canada. It isn’t just Prince Albert,” Fisher explained. “It’s Saskatoon, it’s Regina, it’s all over.”
“It’s a real epidemic,” he added. “We’re trying to help and we hope the City agrees with our plan.”
Fisher said he’s reached out to each city councillor individually to discuss the issue. So far he’s met with roughly half of them, and hopes to meet with the rest before the matter gets on the agenda in September.
Fisher added that he hopes the city planning department will bring it before council in August so the foundation can keep moving forward, but he expects the September date to be the most likely.
The foundation needs city council to agree to rezone the two City-owned lots before the project can continue. If that receives approval, Fisher said they plan to purchase the land from the City and begin construction.
Fisher has already spoken with two potential funding sources: the Provincial Métis Housing Corporation and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
He’s also spoken to the Ministry of Social Services about getting government funding, but said the foundation needs to have clients in place before they can apply.
Fisher is a Métis ordained ministered originally from Yorkton with roughly 20 years experience in working with the homeless. His commitment to the cause comes from personal experience.
Fisher said he began drinking at a young age and eventually wound up on the street himself. It’s that experience that spurs him to try and help homeless people on the streets today.
“I’ve been there and experienced it,” he said. “It’s not nice sleeping with 20 guys in a room on a cot. It smells, and things get stolen.”
Fisher said Prince Albert already has a number of strong organizations and non-profits doing great work. He hopes the new shelter will compliment them, not replace them.
He also hopes Prince Albert residents will get on board and support the project.
“We hope they phone their city councillors, no matter what end of the City they live in,” he said. “We hope they see the need.”
This is the first of two Prince Albert housing projects The Indescribable Gift Foundation has on its radar. The organization is also looking at taking over operations at a second property on Central Avenue, but Fisher said the project is still a long ways off.
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