Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Contrary to what was reported in The Leader a week ago, the Slave Lake Homeless Coalition’s Mat Program overnight shelter is still without an even semi-permanent location.

It turned out our information on the matter was out of date. The offer of the old St. Peter’s Ecumenical Church site for this cold season has been taken off the table. For the time being, the shelter is operating out of rented rooms at the Hotel Northern Star, an arrangement that was meant to only last a month.

“We can’t do this without the support of the community,” says Homeless Coalition manager Jule Asterisk.

Asterisk says the group is in talks on another couple of properties, but the planning permission stuff could take weeks, meaning “we probably can’t get it before Christmas.”

As for the St. Pete’s location, she says the offer was withdrawn because, “we were not able to meet all their conditions.”

Other homeless coalition news

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Despite not having a workable location for the whole winter, the Slave Lake Homeless Coalition is moving forward with its work in supporting people without housing in Slave Lake.

“We’re working with our Mat Program participants every day now,” says Jule Asterisk, program coordinator.

This is through Sweetgrass Support Services, which has the goal of providing wrap-around services to the homeless. Part of this is free mental health counselling.

“We have hooked up with Indigenous Psychological Services,” says Asterisk. So far there’s been interest, but setting up the account, and showing up for appointments can be “a big step” for people, she adds.

Thanks to a grant from the Town of Slave Lake the coalition is hiring a coordinator for the position. The coalition has found a volunteer coordinator and volunteers for serving breakfast and other tasks.

So far, meals have been provided by local restaurants, but soon volunteers will get together on weekends to cook meals to freeze.

As of Friday, November 26th, “numbers have been pretty steady,” says Asterisk, about the number of people sleeping at the Mat Program. Also, the coalition has received a lot of community support.

Asterisk adds, “A good start for the overall thing that we want to do which is to provide for people who are living homeless among us.”

Statistics shared at the November 19th, homeless coalition meeting were from the first 20 days of the program. During that period, 17 individuals used the program for a total of 137 times. This averaged out to seven people a night.