The Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) is looking to bring people to together to help deal with the problem of homelessness in P.A.

Wednesday the tribal council chaired a meeting with representatives from the City of Prince Albert, Prince Albert Police Service (PAPS), Parkland Ambulance, YWCA and business groups along with many others to talk about the efforts underway and what more could be done to combat homelessness. One of the main topics of discussion was finding a permanent facility for the YWCA’s Stepping Stones Shelter so it can operate all year round. Currently the facility is in operation during the winter months in a temporary facility at the exhibition grounds.

Speaking to media after the meeting, YWCA CEO Donna Brooks said they have been working with PAGC and other groups to find a permanent home for the emergency shelter, which has been provided operational funding by the provincial government. She explained finding a permanent building will make a real difference.

“Once we are able to obtain a permanent solution that meets the needs of both the community and the clients it will be a year round shelter,” she said.

Brooks said while having an emergency shelter that can run year round is important she also explained work needs to be done to deal with root causes in regards to homelessness. This includes dealing with the legacy of the residential school system and the harms caused by that system. She added the lack of housing and supports in northern communities is also something which needs to dealt with.

“We are the major center to the north, we are the place that people will come to access services and Prince Albert is overwhelmed,” said Brooks.

(Photo by Michael Joel-Hansen.)

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne was at the meeting on behalf of the city. Speaking to media after the meeting Dionne said the large number of people who came out on behalf of the many different organizations showed there is a will to find a solution to the homelessness problem. The mayor said work is underway to bring more addiction treatment beds to the city. Dionne was thankful that the PAGC organized the meeting, he explained the city does see people who are not able to get support in smaller northern communities ending up in the city, which makes the tribal council’s participation important.

“When they don’t have proper housing and programs at the reserve where do they come, they go to the nearest urban center that has the services and unfortunately, we say we’re the gateway to the north, well really when it comes to problems, we’re the gateway to the south,” he said.

PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte said a major goal they were looking to accomplish by hosting the meeting was to bring people from various organizations together to foster better communication. The grand chief said it was good to hear from organizations like the Salvation Army about the services they are providing vulnerable people in the city. He as well held up an information sheet handed out to those in attendance which he said he found especially valuable.

“It’s important for people like myself, that I know where to call, where the phone numbers are for the warm up places, in the 2023 cold weather resource list that Riverbank (Developments) has provided,” said Hardlotte.

The grand chief said the approach to dealing with homelessness needs to be holistic in offering people not just shelter, but also addictions support. When asked about dealing with the shortage of housing on First Nations, Hardlotte said the issue is one which they work to support their member nations on. He added in order for the issue to be dealt with First Nations need more support from the federal government.

“At the end of the day, it’s the federal government not providing enough housing for the First Nations and infrastructure for the First Nations,” he said.

(Top Photo: Around 30 people gathered for the meeting at PAGC Urban Services late Wednesday morning. Photo by Michael Joel-Hansen.)