With the temporary pandemic shelter at the Edmonton Convention Centre scheduled to close at the end of the month, as well as the closure of other temporary shelters, the city has updated its plans to care for those experiencing homelessness.
Tipinawâw opened as a 24/7 shelter location in October and was originally scheduled to close at the end of March, but council approved additional funding at the beginning of March to extend operations at the convention centre until April 30.
In a news release Friday, the city said it will go forward with the closure of Tipinawâw on April 30. People who have been staying overnight will be supported at other shelter spaces, the city said.
In addition, the Mustard Seed has closed its temporary shelter on 99 Street. Several people who access this service have been transitioned to several churches on the south side and the the Strathcona Neighbour Centre.
Hope Mission will also be moving its operations from Commonwealth Stadium to the Spectrum building, which is part of the former horserace track site south of the Edmonton Expo Centre. The city said it will license the building for temporary use.
To make up for these closures, the overnight spaces will be supplemented with up to 200 new transitional housing spaces, which the city said will primarily be funded by Homeward Trust through federal funding. The city said the province has indicated there are enough shelter beds to accommodate everyone who needs emergency shelter.
“COVID-19 has increased both the number of people falling into homelessness and the gap in services to support them,” said Christel Kjenner, director of housing and homelessness with the City of Edmonton.
“With careful consideration of available funding, spaces at facilities and resources, we are able to keep people safe during the pandemic by providing essential services and leading to greater housing outcomes.”
The city will also create new daytime drop-in spaces for people to utilize during the spring and summer. Existing spaces will also extend their drop-in hours.
A new city-owned building at 10542-105 St. will open 57 new daytime drop-in spaces. Boyle Street Community Services is planning 45 additional spaces and extending hours from five to seven days per week. Bissell Centre will also reopen 50 spaces with extended daytime hours seven days a week.
The city said altogether, 152 additional daytime spaces will be available across the city and serve upwards of 695 people per day.
Temporary mobile washrooms with attendants will be placed in up to six locations downtown and in other business areas from May to October, the city said. The exact locations were not specified Friday.
On Friday, council approved $8.1 million of the city’s COVID-19 Financial Stabilization Reserve to cover costs associated with the plan.
The city said it is also in talks with the Edmonton Police Service and agency partners on a coordinated approach to encampments.
Last summer, a number of large encampments popped up in different areas of the city, including Camp Pekiwewin in the Rossdale neighbourhood.
After much back and forth between the city and camp organizers, the camp eventually closed in early November.
The Peace Camp in Old Strathcona was also dismantled in early November after the encampment was set up first at Wilbert Mcintyre Park then at Light Horse Park.