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New shelter facility in Edmonton set to open as early as Friday; adds hundreds of beds

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WATCH ABOVE: A new addition to Edmonton’s downtown is nearly ready to open and it’s going to help the city’s most vulnerable get the resources they need most. A couple years after its old building was demolished, the Hope Mission is ushering in a new level of care. Morgan Black reports. – Sep 28, 2021

Edmonton’s refurbished Herb Jamieson Centre is set to open before the cold weather arrives.

The facility, which serves men in Edmonton, has space for 400 beds.

Hope Mission’s Kelly Row said the new centre could be open as early as Oct. 1.

The Herb Jamieson Centre is closed for major renovations. Jan. 9, 2020.
The Herb Jamieson Centre is closed for major renovations. Jan. 9, 2020. Todd Merkley, Global News

It replaces the old Herb Jamieson Centre which was built in the 1950s. The centre, located at 100 Street and105A Avenue, closed in 2019 and was torn down in 2020.

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Read more: Over $6M raised for Edmonton shelter rebuild; Hope Mission waiting on province

“The building was getting kind of tired. Safety issues…wheelchair access was a problem,” Row said. “We really wanted to start again and start a new chapter with a brand new facility.”

Row said the new building will feature upgrades that make for a more streamlined and comfortable experience for clients. Changes include 24/7 rescue vans being able to pull directly into the building to offload people. The housing team will work directly inside the shelter to help clients transition to housing more quickly, and an entire section of shelter beds is dedicated to a low-mobility wing.

“Winter is coming and we need to be able to provide this shelter,” Row said. “We are really excited to see clients’ reaction. It was built specifically with them in mind.”

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Tim Pasma, Hope Mission’s manager of homeless programming, said when the new building opens there will be 525 shelter beds in total that Hope Mission can offer between its two locations. It does have surge capacity, if funding is provided from the province, to provide up to 715 beds.

A temporary shelter at the Northlands Spectrum building will stay open until people can be transitioned to the new facility. Pasma said that site can house about 150 people overnight.

Read more: Edmonton activates extreme weather response with overnight transit to shelters

He said many programs are being expanded to help people find secure housing.

“People could fail when they go into housing. They come back to shelter and that’s OK. We will try again. That’s the whole point — as many opportunities as we can to access housing.”

Medical services, substance use and community resource referrals are also part of the shelter’s resources.

Pasma acknowledged that more people are entering homelessness. As well, Edmonton’s opioid crisis is also creating an additional challenge, as many community organizations are struggling to keep people alive.

Read more: Edmonton opioid crisis: Daily deaths, overdoses overwhelming social services and health-care system

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“We have our own overdose response teams,” Pasma said. “It means working with our partnerships – Alberta Health Services, EPS, EMS. It’s a major issue for our community. This building alone will not solve this problem. But we are doing our part to ensure a safe environment as much as we can.”

Cory Williams came to Edmonton from Fort McMurray and stayed at the old Herb Jamieson building for a period of time.

“Everything fell apart in Fort McMurray. I lost my job. I left there and came to the medical facility at the old (centre),” he said.

“Food, shelter, clothing and somebody to care. I’d say they covered all the bases.”

Williams, currently in Hope Mission’s substance use recovery program, said the new addition in the community will help the most vulnerable, but the new facility is likely not yet enough.

“This will (house) maybe half the population. It’s grown exponentially over the past year…and so has the drug supply,” he said. “There’s still going to be a greater need.”

The project cost $16 million. Half of the funds were raised by private donors through the mission. The federal and provincial governments each gave $4 million.

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