For the past 16 months, crisis diversion teams have responded to more than 11,000 calls for help on Edmonton city streets, according to a report released by REACH Edmonton on Wednesday.
Team members and their vans are deployed 24-7, 365 days a year.
The report found most of the calls for help came from the inner city and most were for indigenous men between the ages of 35 to 49.
Since the program first launched in October 2015, crisis diversion teams have patrolled the streets looking for vulnerable people and offering them supports and places to stay.
Often times, those who needed help were intoxicated or homeless. But not always.
Ryan Harding, manager of the Hope Mission, said crisis diversion teams recently helped an 85-year-old woman back to her home. She was released from the hospital with nowhere to go.
“She lost her identification and lost all of her money and the keys to her apartment,” Harding said.
He said the difference between crisis diversion teams and a cab driver is relationship-building. Harding was able to talk to the elderly woman’s neighbours and get her back inside safely.
“We’re not just bringing people to a shelter.”
The teams, under the watch of REACH Edmonton, work collaboratively with the Edmonton Police Service, Alberta Health Services’ Emergency Medical Services, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Hope Mission and Boyle Street Community Services.
“There’s always the offer of what can we do for you? What can happen? We call that the warm hand-off,” said Lindsay Daniller from REACH Edmonton.
“Instead of going to an emergency room, instead of sitting in the back of a police vehicle, there is something else.”
Edmonton police say the program is working. It has freed up officers and the time they spend on non-emergency calls.
With the opening of Rogers Place downtown, arena security have called upon the teams to respond.
“You have an immediately safe place when you get into a van,” Daniller said.
If you see anyone needing help, call 211 then press 3.
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