EDMONTON – It’s something no one wants to see in their community, but the reality of homelessness is front in centre in several of Edmonton’s core communities.
“You’re sitting there wondering: ‘Where am I going to go now?'” Roy Martin explained.
“Most of the people down here do suffer from mental health and addictions and all they do is throw them in jail,” Lonnie Whiskeyjack said.
When the overnight shelters close, people often end up wandering the areas in between them and that has some concerned.
This week, business and community leaders from Chinatown called for action, including support for more day-time drop-in spaces.
“I know it’s not easy,” Mei Hung with the Chinese Benevolent Association said. “But someone has got to take the leadership and do something about it.”
There are a couple of day-time drop-in spaces. Boyle Street operates seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in summer and fall. The hours are longer in the winter.
Further east, the Bissell Centre operates its day centre six days, from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
“They’re good for helping people with food and stuff like that,” Martin said.
“We are hopeful that we will get support from the province,” Mayor Don Iveson said.
The mayor says an emphasis has to be placed on dealing with the root causes. Iveson has sent a letter to the province calling for more financial support for detox and drop-in spaces, plus more.
“Working towards a model where we have a wellness-based site where people can get integrated support for their addictions and mental health issues,” the mayor said on Wednesday, “where they can be brought by police if they are having those issues and creating social disorder on a non-criminalized basis.”
One city resident suggests even more can be done.
“Bissell Centre or Boyle Street, they should have mats there where people can sleep during the day and one of these drop-ins should be open 24/7,” Roy Moian said.
As the pressure grows to find solutions to ongoing challenges, Martin offers his perspective:
“The people out here should have homes where they can go, instead of sleeping out here because it’s causing a lot of people problems. That shouldn’t be even happening.”