The co-founders of Edmonton’s Jasper Place Wellness Centre announced Friday that a lack of funding is prompting them to close its community resource centre used by homeless and poverty-stricken residents of the city.
“After 16 years of serving our community, it is with a heavy heart that we announce the closure of our community resource centre,” the JPWC said in a statement tweeted out on the registered charity’s Twitter account. “This decision comes from the significant challenges we have faced due to a lack of funding.
“Since 2006, our resource centre has been a vital space, providing essential resources and support to unhoused Edmontonians and those at risk of losing their housing.”
It was not immediately clear if the closure had already taken effect. Global News has reached out to the JPWC for further details.
The west Edmonton centre not only works to address affordable housing issues, but also food security, health care, employment and community building.
In a separate tweet, the JPWC noted its emergency shelter will close on May 29 “as our contract has ended.”
City council had approved $7.5 million in funding for the planned 150-bed emergency shelter at a former hotel on Stony Plain Road in the fall and its first beds opened in January.
“Every single Edmontonian deserves access to a safe and warm space, and that is exactly why this city council prioritized funding this shelter,” Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said on Jan. 20 at an opening ceremony.
A count by Edmonton non-profit Homeward Trust indicated that as of May 6, more than 3,000 people in Alberta’s capital were experiencing homelessness, with about 1,300 of them sleeping in emergency shelters or outside every night.
Elaine Hyshka, an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Health Systems Innovation at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, tweeted that the closure “will leave a big service gap in west” Edmonton.
“Jasper Place Wellness Centre’s resource centre had 10,000 visits from precariously housed or homeless Edmontonians during the past three months,” she tweeted.
“Particularly now, when we are seeing such a crisis — I think that’s fair to say in terms of the number of people experiencing homelessness, in terms of the number of people who are outside right now — not having their resources in the west end is just going to result in more people in the west end without any type of access to support at all,” said Coun. Andrew Knack on Saturday.
He said many people experiencing homelessness will move neighbourhoods to find resources, but others have stronger ties to the community and aren’t willing to move. Without those supports, Knack said, those people are going to find themselves in even “rougher circumstances.”
“If the alternative is more people outside, more people in parks, more people who are dealing with pretty complex challenges not having a space to be, that’s the worst outcome … for the people that need help … for the communities.
“It’s critical for us to fill in the gap.”
–With files from 630 CHED’s Stephanie Swensrude