LAC LA BICHE - The chair of the Lakeland Out of the Elements Shelter Society (LOESS) is hopeful the new transitional housing project near the Alexander Hamilton community park will be up and running within the week.
“We are hoping it will be within the week,” said Lenora LeMay, in an interview with Lakeland This Week on Nov. 15. “There are a few outstanding items that need to be addressed at this time.”
While she didn’t elaborate as to what the items are, she did say until clients are ready to move to the transitional housing units, the organization’s current shelter near the Light of Christ Catholic School will remain open and in use.
The transitional housing project to address homelessness in the community has been a local priority for the last decade. In the last few years, more than $500,000 in funding from Lac La Biche County coffers and another $150,000 from federal grants through the Rural Development Network have gone towards the project. A recent budget estimate to locate six renovated trailers, clear land, supply power and fence the area was pegged at more than $900,000.
Once in operation, the facility will be the responsibility of the Lakeland Out of the Elements Shelter. Clients of the facility will participate in a four-stage program designed to help them transition from being homeless to eventually finding stable housing. The trailers will be used to welcome first-time clients, giving them a warm room to sleep in, and progressing them through the process leading to having their own, private rooms inside other trailers.
The project will also feature social programming opportunities for clients using the site to help them along the path.
“We support the clients to have their basic needs met first and foremost and then to be able to also support them to achieve their personally meaningful hopes and goals,” LeMay said, adding that the organization’s goal is to help clients who demonstrate an interest in moving into the transitional housing part of the facility.
Regarding how successful this project will be, LeMay says that will depend upon the involvement and support of various parties, including the community.
“One of our gauges of success will be the involvement of stakeholders, especially the community, in working alongside those who are homeless or nearly homeless in inclusive spaces so that those experiencing homelessness can imagine and work toward meaningful goals,” she said.
More work, more support, more funding
According to LeMay, LOESS staff and board members continue to search not only for financial resources, but also best practices to bring an end to homelessness in Lac La Biche County.
“We are looking for volunteers who want to join subcommittees to help us with fundraising and creating awareness of how we can work together to provide more than a roof overhead,” she said.
Lac La Biche County officials say another aspect currently being finalized with the site is internet connectivity.
"Lakeland Out of the Elements Shelter Society is currently waiting on an internet connection to the Transitional Housing Facility to be completed,” noted municipal spokesperson Jihad Moghrabi. “The internet is critical for safety mechanisms, such as cameras, to be operational. Once these security features are functional, LOESS will move into the new facility.”
Bonesville camp to close
While the site is being prepared, several people continue to live in heated, wooden sheds on a municipal piece of property in the Bonesville subdivision south of Lac La Biche. The Bonesville site is a partnership between Lac La Biche County and the Metis Nation of Alberta and has served as an interim emergency location for the last two years.
“When the Transitional Housing Facility opens, the Bonesville camp will be closed down, as per the agreement that Lac La Biche County has with Métis Nation of Alberta,” said Moghrabi.