Ongoing and increasing theft and drug problems in downtown Peace River have led groups to work together to find a solution to the mental health woes plaguing people in the community.

Town of Peace River Mayor Elaine Manzer says the Town, along with the Sagitawa Friendship Centre, Mental Health Task Force Group, and others have been discussing the issue of homelessness which has increased in the downtown core.

In light of this work, Sagitawa proposed starting a Mobile Outreach Project to bring help to people on the street that cannot necessarily find a way to assistance.

“Some of the homeless individuals are also experiencing mental health, addictions, and other health concerns,” says Manzer.

“Grande Prairie has a Mobile Outreach Project where homeless individuals are assisted in finding help with some of their concerns through a holistic approach with help from outreach workers who meet the homeless clients where the clients are located to provide services or make connections to help the client in their situation. Grande Prairie has found funding to offer this service beyond normal business hours.”

At their council meeting on May 19, Peace River town council was presented with a request from the Sagitawa Friendship Centre for financial support of $25,000 to help attain a Mobile Outreach Unit for the community.

“The proposed Mobile Outreach Unit would increase the outreach services that the Sagitawa Friendship Society already provides to all groups by being mobile,” explains Manzer.

“This would include outreach workers being visible in downtown Peace River to help mitigate the impacts of street-level disorder, addiction, and public intoxication,” she adds.

Manzer says the proposed Mobile Outreach Unit would provide referrals to community agencies, assist business owners and community with their concerns regarding the homeless population, engage the street population to assist with biweekly clean ups, assist with client appointments, have regular check-in with clients and have soup and bannock on the street.

Funds collected by this request from Sagitawa would help to hire an outreach worker to help start the project. Sagitawa plans on continuing to apply for government funds to ensure the project can be continued.

“Peace River has more obvious homeless in the downtown area,” explains Manzer.

“This is compounded by a lack of transportation options for travel to other communities for some being released from the Peace River Correctional Institution which has release rules that it must follow. Some of the incidents in the downtown area have had RCMP involvement which takes officers away from other areas that are within their mandate.”

In months leading up to the proposal, business owners from the community have been working with Peace Regional RCMP Advisory Committee and town council to create a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) program. The initiative looks at environmental ways around businesses and streets to not only keep the downtown core inviting and welcoming, but also to dissuade any looting or vandalism.

Business owners have painted buildings, they do regular clean up of nearby sidewalks, increase their lighting and cameras around their buildings, and other improvements.

Manzer says they are assisting Peace River Economic Development Committee with plans to keep the downtown attractive and welcoming to customers and visitors.

“The hope is that the Mobile Outreach Program will help those experiencing homelessness, mental and other health issues resulting in some street disorder in downtown Peace River, to get assistance and yes, not be causing business or other general public to have concerns when using our town amenities,” says Manzer, adding that the hope is Peace River will realize similar success with the Mobile Outreach Project as Grande Prairie has had with theirs. Manzer says council approved the request for $25,000 of funding, and she is under the understanding that many other communities have also contributed to the project.

Sagitawa Friendship Cetnre will be the responsible party to hire and supervise the programs.

By Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter South Peace News –

Original Published on Jun 13, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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