December 11, 2023

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Downtown enterprise homeowners and non-profits are urging council to do extra to battle homelessness. Individuals residing in additional than a dozen tents exterior the Centre of Hope has change into harmful for everybody within the space, they argue, and setting again hopes for downtown improvement.

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Close by enterprise homeowners have seen individuals on the encampment get in fights, abuse medication and alcohol, urinate and defecate in public, gentle fires, and wrestle with psychological well being points. It’s widespread to seek out needles scattered all through the world.

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“I’m not simply involved concerning the companies or prospects, but in addition for them. These will not be correct residing circumstances for human beings,” stated Mia Wei, who runs PlayON House throughout from the Manning Avenue encampment, in an interview. “They’re human beings and deserve care and higher residing circumstances.”

Wei despatched a letter to council that was signed by 18 enterprise homeowners. The letter argues that permitting homelessness to unfold is setting hurts downtown financial packages. The most important of those packages, the Downtown Revitalization Incentive Program (DRIP), has been funded by the municipality and personal companies.

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A letter from the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce requires extra outreach providers, habit and psychological well being helps, and policing in downtown.

“We perceive that this can be a complicated difficulty with no simple options,” writes Dianna de Sousa, the chamber of commerce’s govt director. “Nevertheless, we firmly consider that by working collectively, we will develop methods that tackle the basis causes of homelessness and habit whereas additionally offering assist and assets to the affected people.”

Mayor Sandy Bowman stated in an e mail he has been talking with non-profits and companies about homelessness, and agrees with their issues concerning the present state of affairs.

“By means of collaborative, community-based efforts, I’m happy to see the renewed, wanted motion being taken to cut back homelessness downtown whereas caring for these experiencing homelessness as greatest as doable,” he stated.

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homeless camp
A person rides a motorcycle previous a tent in an encampment close to the nook of Manning Avenue and Marshall Road in downtown Fort McMurray on July 16, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Immediately/Postmedia Community

‘Nobody chooses this as a lifestyle’

Rosie Keating, govt director of the Centre of Hope, stated encampments have all the time existed in Fort McMurray however the Manning Avenue encampment is simply extra seen than latest ones. The Centre of Hope and different non-profits are looking for applicable housing for all homeless individuals within the area.

Nobody chooses this as a lifestyle, trauma and life experiences have introduced them right here,” stated Keating. There was a shift in what we see at the moment as in comparison with 10 years in the past in that we’re seeing youthful individuals enter homelessness in addition to a rise in psychological well being points that many are going through… particularly for the reason that pandemic.”

Keating says the municipality’s Neighborhood Plan on Homelessness nonetheless accomplishes victories, and the municipality has been praised for earlier efforts. The ten-Yr-Plan to Finish Homelessness, which council adopted in 2010, reduce the variety of individuals within the area who have been homeless.

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As of 2021, extra than 1,100 individuals who went by way of this system have been transferred into housing and assist packages. Roughly 85 per cent of individuals had an earnings and averted homelessness after finishing this system. Comparable outcomes have been reported by non-profits such because the Salvation Military.

Meals insecurity, bother discovering secure housing, and restricted entry to well being care, addictions assist and psychological well being providers are nonetheless issues in Fort McMurray and close by rural and Indigenous communities.

Keating stated extra work and assets are wanted to safe correct housing and psychological well being helps for individuals experiencing homelessness.

The newest municipal rely discovered 162 homeless individuals in Fort McMurray final September. Abuse, monetary issues, addictions, well being points and unsafe housing have been all cited as causes for homelessness. About half of these surveyed have been males, 44 per cent have been Indigenous, and 43 per cent have been between the ages of 25 and 44.

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-with recordsdata from Laura Beamish

[email protected]

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