Homeless, needy and unemployed people in Stettler have become a growing concern for Stettler and District Family and Community Support Services, which expects the problem could get worse with the cold winter weather and continued economic crisis.
“It’s more prevalent than what the community may realize,” said Faye Blakely, administrator for FCSS.
“We know many people in town don’t have any home because we get several who spend many hours a day or all day in our office, especially when it’s cold outside,” said director Theresa Tempest.
This year to the end of November, the local employment office has processed 1,088 applications for employment insurance, up significantly from 467 from the same period in 2008, although figures do not include local people applying online.
A total of 62 applications for employment insurance were filed at the Stettler office, up marginally from 57 in November in the 2008.
“Our unemployment rate is very high and many people are looking at bankruptcy,” said Tempest
To address homelessness, a committee was recently formed to develop strategies to address the issue and plans apply for a grant to support the program.
(Watch the Independent for further details on the committee.)
“We need to address homeless and unemployed people,” said Blakely.
“We are starting to see increased pressures and the stress with people coming into our office in tears, and many consider suicide.”
“It’s important that the community is aware of these crises.”
A lack of public transportation, shelters and food kitchens in Stettler has restricted services that homeless people need, with the closest facilities based in Red Deer.
“Transportation is a major concern and we don’t have a shelters and soup kitchens,” said Blakely.
Seeking shelter in cold weather, many homeless people break into residences.
Numbers remain high at Stettler and District Food Bank which has distributed an average 120 hampers per month this year, compared to 93 last year.
For the Christmas season, Stettler Christmas Hamper Society expects to pack about 130 hampers, up from 94 last year, said Blakely, with Dec. 11 the deadline for applications.
Christmas hampers are scheduled to be packed Dec. 21.
Funding donations are accepted at FCSS and at Gitzel Krejci Dand and Peterson Chartered Accountants.
Donations of toys and gifts can be deposited until Dec. 20 in donation boxes at FCSS, Peavey Mart, Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, Odd and Ends, Curves and The Bargain Shop.