ST. PAUL - A transitional housing project to support low-risk individuals is being proposed by the Mannawanis Native Friendship Centre (MNFC), at a property located within the Town of St. Paul.
On June 26, Town council met with a delegation from the MNFC, which included executive director Hinano Rosa and Outreach Worker Gail Collins. Prior to the Monday night delegation, a letter of intent was sent to the Town of St. Paul, describing the project.
"Mannawanis Native Friendship Centre is reaching out and seeking approval to zone a proposed development for a supportive living facility," reads the letter. The proposed facility would be located at 5130-45 Avenue and would be a 12-bed supported living facility.
Individuals in the program would be part of a six to 24 month program. Clients would have to be deemed "low-risk" and would be leaving treatment facilities. The facility would be staffed 24 hours a day, and a social worker, mental health worker, and addictions worker would be available to clients.
MNFC is also working alongside Alberta Health Services, providing the program to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Clients would have support in a variety of ways, such as conflict resolution, daily living skills, transportation, educational opportunities, leisure activities, social support, and more.
An "exit plan" would also be part of the final stage of programming, explained Collins.
"We look at this as a shared responsibility," said Collins, speaking to the need for transitional housing in the community.
Council members were able to ask questions to the MNFC representatives, with Mayor Maureen Miller noting that the questions being asked are a reflection of questions that the public may be asking, not just council members.
Coun. Nathan Taylor began by asking what the definition of "low-risk" was.
Rosa explained that a low risk individual does not require medication to be delivered by staff. While the individual may be on medication, they are able to administer it themselves. The program would be looking for people who are able to maintain sobriety, but don't have a safe place to live. The individual needs to be able to move into independence, he explained further.
Taylor then asked if the transitional housing project would actively reduce homelessness, to which representatives said yes.
Rosa further explained that the MNFC is also working on an out-patient program for those who do not quality for transitional housing.
Taylor also asked what "alternative housing" looks like when individuals move on from the transitional housing program, to which Collins said it would depend on the needs of the client.
"A lot of these people come to the centre, and they've had a lot of doors closed on them," said Collins.
Miller asked about potential staffing issues that could arise with the transitional housing project, since there are often staffing challenges experienced in the community in areas such as healthcare.
Collins stated the Friendship Centre has connections with programs that are offered through University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills (UnBQ). Rosa added that preference will be given to hiring local people who are already in the community. Priority will also be given to serving clients from the area first, he added.
Many of the services provided to clients will be offered through the MNFC, and clients who are living at the transitional housing facility will be expected to be actively engaged in programs, which means they will be busy throughout the days and not simply staying inside the facility all day.
For now, a four-year agreement is in place with AHS to support the transitional housing program. If it works well, it could be extended, said Rosa. He also noted that while the facility is not an answer to all the problems, it is a good start.
A motion to table the information as presented was made.
Speaking after the meeting, CAO Steven Jeffery said, "The idea behind having Manawanis present was to provide council and the public with a high-level understanding of the 12-bed supportive living facility and be able to ask questions prior to proceeding to bylaw readings and/or amendments."