Word around Slave Lake last week is that a camp of homeless people in the bush somewhere south of town was being removed by the province. Or that it had been or that it was going to be.

Evidently, the concern is liability. Fires could start, and so on.

Slave Lake Homeless Coalition (HC) Executive Director Stacey Carmichael has heard the same sort of thing.

“It happens all the time,” Carmichael says. “It’s nothing unique to have a camp moved.”

There’s also nothing unique about what happens next, I.e., the campers find some other place to set up, where they are also not wanted.

The problem is well enough known.

“The province recognizes there is nowhere to move them to,” says Carmichael. “They’ve tasked us, as a community, to figure out (what to do about it).”

That is a long-term challenge, involving housing, staff and of course money to make it work.

A shorter-term challenge for the community in general and the HC in particular, is to find a spot for a shelter for the colder months. Carmichael says work continues on that, and the community can expect to hear something about it fairly soon.

“We’re doing some work on a specific location,” she says.

‘We’ is the board, Carmichael and an outreach worker. That person’s job is at least partly keeping in touch with people experiencing homelessness and helping them with urgent needs. Right now, Carmichael says, that includes blankets, socks and “seasonal clothing.”

Tents and sleeping bags would be welcome as well.

A plea for such donations went out recently on social media. As of the date of the interview for this article, it had generated zero response, Carmichael said.

“We’re just trying to keep people alive,” she says.

If you want to help, call 780-516-7767. There’s a Facebook group as well.

Carmichael estimates there are over 30 people camping somewhere in or around Slave Lake at the moment. The outreach worker tries to stay in touch and connect the people with help (health care, for example) they may need.

“That’s a whole other challenge,” Carmichael says. “Where do we send them?”

There aren’t a lot of options in the area for people with often complex needs, Carmichael says. In the cities, there’s access to detox services, and services for pregnant homeless women, as two examples.

“Not even housing here,” she says.

Until the housing issue can be addressed, “we’re going to have to give out blankets. So we appreciate any help we can get.”

by Joe McWilliams

This item copyrighted by   AlbertaChat.com / Lakeside Leaader   Slave Lake, Alberta

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