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Coronavirus: Alberta commits additional $48M to homelessness supports

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

The provincial government has announced new funding to help support vulnerable populations across Alberta amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the $25 million dedicated to helping homeless populations back in March, on Wednesday the government stated it has now allocated an additional $48 million to the cause.

Read more: Coronavirus: Kenney says Edmonton Expo Centre will be used for vulnerable population

Alberta’s minister of community and social services said the funding will go towards shelters and community organizations working to provide care and safe isolation spaces to vulnerable people amid the pandemic.

“Our top priority is to continue supporting Albertans experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rajan Sawhney said in a news release on Wednesday.

“This funding ensures vulnerable Albertans have 24-7 access to shelter facilities where possible and are able to self-isolate and receive care in safe spaces.”

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Read more: Isolation rooms established for Calgary homeless populations at high risk of COVID-19

The funding will help shelters expand their current sites to ensure physical distancing guidelines can be followed and will also allow shelters to incorporate 24-hour access to the facility wherever possible.

“COVID-19 requires us all to do things differently to make sure our guests are safe,” executive director of Hope Mission Bruce Reith said.

“I am pleased the government is stepping up to provide additional financial help so we can continue to support people through this difficult time.”

Heat wave presenting additional risks for Lethbridge’s homeless population
Heat wave presenting additional risks for Lethbridge’s homeless population

Officials noted the pandemic has brought with it further complications and health risks for those experiencing homelessness across the province.

Stephen Wile, CEO of The Mustard Seed, said this new funding will help vital services shift to safer operations as the novel coronavirus continues to spread.

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“COVID-19 continues to pose a serious threat to people experiencing homelessness,” Wile said.

“It is critical that we continue to work together to make sure Albertans experiencing homelessness are protected and have access to safe isolation and care or emergency shelter.”

The funding will ensure expanded shelter space is available in cities and communities across the province, including Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Lac La Biche, Lloydminster and Drayton Valley.