An Edmonton program that aims to divert people from the criminal justice system by instead providing them with support services has a new home.
The Edmonton Police Service’s Human-centred Engagement Liaison Partnership (HELP) has moved into its new base at the Union Building in the Central McDougall neighbourhood.
HELP is a new approach to policing that the EPS said seeks to better understand the root causes of the barriers facing people that can lead to homelessness, mental health challenges, addictions or generational trauma.
Rather than arresting and incarcerating people, HELP aims to divert people from the justice system by providing them with much-needed social, health and community supports.
The EPS said moving HELP into the Union Building will allow multiple agencies to be under one roof. This will provide the service and its agency partners an opportunity to better collaborate and coordinate support services in the community to better serve the needs of the city’s most vulnerable.
“This will allow us to break down the silos, bridge the gaps in service, and use data for evidence-based solutions that provide wrap-around support for hundreds of individuals who have become unnecessarily entrenched in the criminal justice system,” EPS chief Dale McFee said in a news release.
The types of services provided through HELP are based on each individual’s unique needs, according to the EPS. These services include addictions counselling, health care, transportation, housing, employment and financial support and guidance on basic life skills.
“We are stronger, and our care for the vulnerable population is stronger, when we work together in partnership,” McFee said.
“We know social policing, community safety and well-being takes time, and a lot of dedication by partners, but we know it works. We have seen and heard such amazing success stories of community members getting off the streets. As long as we stick together and hold each other accountable to improve their lives it will always be worth it.”
The three-storey building includes office space, meeting rooms, a large classroom, client engagement room, cultural room, kitchen, staff change rooms and parking.
“The building facilitates collaboration and that’s really the game changer for our community members by having different partners in the building,” said Jordan Reiniger, executive director of Boyle Street Community Services.
“The hope is that program will do a lot to help people move away from that experience to be able to get into housing to be able to get the support they need.”
Since HELP launched on Jan. 4, the EPS said it has been able to connect about 280 people with social services.
“You’ve got a high crime rate and you’ve got a high social issues problem, so if you’re not actually fixing both of them, you haven’t really fixed anything,” McFee said.
HELP also provides case management and follow-up services from Boyle Street Community Services.
The program also offers services provided by community partners including Alberta Health Services, Homeward Trust, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, George Spady Society, Mustard Seed Society, REACH Edmonton, Bissell Centre Edmonton, Boyle McCauley Health Services, E4C, the City of Edmonton and the government of Alberta.
The use of the Union Building for the next five years was donated to the EPS by Katz Group Real Estate.