Coronavirus: Edmonton aims to close EXPO Centre drop-in day shelter by August

A look at how the Edmonton Expo Centre is being used for the city's homeless and vulnerable populations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, AHS

Three months after the the Edmonton EXPO Centre opened its doors to daytime drop-in for Edmonton’s homeless, the city and its partners are aiming to end operations at the site before the beginning of August.

The number of people using the EXPO drop-in during the day remains high. According to the City of Edmonton, as of June 23, 634 people were counted at the EXPO Centre that day.

“We are working diligently to develop coordinated system-wide services for individuals experiencing homelessness once EXPO has closed,” said Adrienne Cloutier, a communications advisor with the City of Edmonton.

“We know the more complex need of individuals experiencing homelessness can be better supported by permanent support housing solutions in the longer term,” said Cloutier, adding more details will be available in the coming weeks.

Read more: Edmonton EXPO Centre homeless shelter to have drop-in, COVID-19 health care services

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The EXPO Centre day shelter has served as a one-stop for multiple needs and has been open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

It includes access to a bed, laundry, meals and showers. Spiritual and housing support is also provided, along with pet supplies.

On Thursday, the Bissell Centre shared a look inside the centre, providing a glimpse of the day-to-day operations for staff and those served.

The EXPO Centre has also been set up to isolate anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19, as well as provide testing and areas for quarantine.

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On June 23, nine people were listed in the EXPO Centre isolation shelter.

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“The city and partners also recognize the continued need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among this population by ensuring individuals have the necessary space to meet physical distancing and isolation guidelines,” Cloutier said.

The City of Edmonton said now that the state of emergency is over, and with the recent announcement of the reopening of facilities, it is also looking to find overnight shelter options for those experiencing homelessness.

The temporary overnight shelters at the Kinsmen rec centre and Central Lions had 172 visitors on June 23. The Kinsmen operates from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven days a week.

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The Kinsmen is set to reopen to the public on July 13.

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The reopening will include the Keltie Byrne Fitness Centre, training studio, functional training centre, upper field house cardio areas and select court sports.

The aquatic centre will start its partial reopening on Aug. 4.

The city is working the Mustard Seed, Alberta Health Services and Homeward Trust to identify alternate locations for the summer months.

The Mustard Seed said it has secured 50 beds at Trinity Lutheran Church once the Kinsmen closes and they are looking for additional spaces.

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