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Home News Community groups meet for city’s first forum on homelessness

Community groups meet for city’s first forum on homelessness

Community groups meet for city’s first forum on homelessness
Mayor Greg Dionne, Craig Guidinger, Director of Planning for the City and Dr. Chad Nilson announced the launch of the Homelessness Action Initiative on Dec. 16 in downtown Prince Albert. The City and other groups hope to identify some of the causes of a growing problem on city streets. Photo Susan McNeil

As one of several recommendations to come out of Dr. Chad Nilson’s Homelessness Action Initiative, the first meeting of the City’s Chronic Risk Solutions Forum was held on Thursday afternoon with close to 25 individuals from different local human service agencies, community organizations, and levels of government in attendance.

According to an information package from Nilson and City Planner Craig Guidinger, the forum provides an opportunity for community partners to identify the problems and/or opportunities to initiate solutions for chronic risk individuals and families.

“The forum will have two levels of focus. On the individual level, forum participants can mobilize to engage other service partners in the management of chronic risk. At the system level, forum participants can identify system level problems that impact chronic risk individuals (e.g., service gaps, access barriers, inefficiencies) and initiate action teams to find solutions,” reads the package.

Through speaking with people on the street and meeting with community stakeholders during his nearly yearlong research study for the Homelessness Action Initiative, Nilson found that homelessness is the label, but the driver is actually chronic risk. The best way to find solutions to homelessness, is by first dealing with the root causes.

“If we don’t effectively manage chronic risk, that’s how we end up with homelessness, gangs, and people dying,” said Nilson.

During the hour-long meeting, Nilson described a fragmentation within the City’s support service agencies and a lack of systematic problem solving. He said that when it comes to the chronic risk population that struggle with absolute homelessness, many are connected to services but there is a lack of connectivity between the agencies that provide the services.

General Manager of River Bank Development Brian Howell said the Community Advisory Board on Homelessness has already begun mobilizing partnering agencies through the Coordinated Access program. They are in the works of introducing a computerized case management system, where clients can choose to share their information with the various supportive programs around Prince Albert.

“People get accessed and assigned an acuity level, then you try to find a fit for them within the area that can help them,” said Howell in an interview with the Herald. “There’s not enough services for the number of people here, but you try as hard as you can to link them with the service that’s going to help them.”

Currently, the Coordinated Access program involves Homeward Bound and three housing support workers, they are in the process of bringing in the YWCA’s other shelter programs, Moose Lodge, and other agencies in the community that might fit.

“You can make linkages that way, and sort of solve problems before they get unmanageable,” Howell said. He added that between Homeward Bound and the Community Advisory Board, they have housed 98 people this year.

Howell said it’s overwhelming to people how much homelessness there’s been lately. While a 10 to 15 bed shelter may have been enough to get them through the winter a few years ago, they’re up to thirty beds now with more people still on the streets.

“There’s something going on out there that is leading to more and more people ending up here, and I’m not sure what it is,” said Howell.

The end of Thursday’s meeting was heavy on discussing what would make the Forum successful in attracting organizations to participate.

Jeanette Carrier, Executive Director of the Prince Albert Indian & Metis Friendship Centre, said their clients are like family; just to see them happy and getting support is enough to keep them involved in the Forum.

After a greeting by Mayor Greg Dionne, the very first Chronic Risk Solutions Forum came to an end with the promise to continue to meet on a regular basis going into the future.