A temporary place to call home after a hospital visit will soon be available for a handful of houseless Edmontonians, and this is just the start of something bigger.
Alberta Health Services, in partnership with Jasper Place Wellness Centre (JPWC), created the Bridge Healing Transitional Accommodation Program which, in short, will give those who experience houselessness a place to go to after they have been discharged from the emergency department at Edmonton hospitals.
The pilot project is the first of its kind in the country and will first focus on outpatients at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. The permitted space has a total of 36 beds to start.
In a news release issued Thursday, the Alberta government said those experiencing houselessness while also struggling with a chronic illness or health issue are often more susceptible to complications and repeat emergency department visits.
“The program will support individuals in finding permanent housing that meets their needs, while also ensuring that they are connected to the right community and health-based resources to maintain that housing and build lives that they are proud of,” said Taylor Soroka, co-founder of the JPWC.
Over the span of 30 days, workers will help individuals find income support, get identification if need be and help with health-care needs such as referrals for clinical detox and residential treatment — all of this under one roof.
Though the program is planned to see individuals graduate from it, Soroka was quick to explain that because it’s a pilot project, each individual client will have specific needs, and if some require more than a month to assess those needs, so be it.
“We want to prove that the model works,” she said, adding there’s always room for change as they discover needs they may not have thought of in the first place.
“Historically, speaking from a transitional housing perspective, we know it will work, but as an accommodation program with Alberta Health Services, let’s prove it out and then grow.”
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Dr. Louis Francescutti spoke at a news conference about the program Thursday. He said the 36 beds are just a start, and once the program starts to show its value — which he said he thinks would be instantaneously — he’d like to see the pilot grow to 108 beds as it would create a “good dent” into helping the vulnerable population.
“Especially if we can move the patients through every 30 days — 108 beds times 30 will tell you that we can start impacting thousands of individuals,” Francescutti said.
“But the most important thing is to get this open, show it works and then scale up. And this can be scaled up throughout the entire province… once it is that we can repatriate patients from Edmonton to whatever community they come from.”
When asked if other provinces or cities have inquired about the program, Francescutti said not yet as it’s just been revealed, though he expects others to duplicate the program once the metrics show the trickle effect with the impact it has not only for the individuals themselves, but also for health-care wait times and services in the long term.
AHS said it hopes to have the first patients discharged from emergency and into Bridge Healing’s facility near the end of January.