Several organizations and agencies in Stettler have decided to establish a fund to help homeless people living in the Stettler area and they are appealing for support and donations.
As the economic downturn continues to take its toll on families and communities, a recent meeting in Stettler brought together representatives of several organizations and agencies to address a problem that the community is not completely aware of: Homelessness.
The Dec. 1 meeting at the Stettler Family and Community Support Services office was the first attempt to assess the problem and discuss possible ways of dealing with it.
Lorraine Hankins of the Stettler Referral and Information Service, who spearheaded the efforts to bring the group together to hold the first meeting said
“People are sleeping in their cars or at the gazebo or the facilities of the Clearview (school division), but we don’t have accurate numbers.”
Hankins said they would like to have some money for the homeless people “to do some backpacks to put in basic toiletries, blankets, hoodies.”
She also said they were hoping to have some funds to temporarily accommodate some people.
“It is on a short-term basis and to help them with some food,” Hankins said with reference to the accommodation plans.
Judy Hunt of Stettler Housing Authority, who took part in the meeting, said “There are hotel rooms in Stettler at a lesser rate. If we had money, we could put some of them up there. But right now we are just in the process of getting some money together.”
Hunt said one of their priorities was “making community aware that these people actually exist.”
“Because a lot of people believe ‘No, no, not in Stettler,’ But it is like yes, in Stettler,” said Hunt.
Participants at the meeting heard stories of people living in tents, staff from the Outreach School finding students waiting at the doors at 8 o’clock for a warm and safe place and the breakfast provided by the school.
The meeting was also told that individuals were breaking into empty or vacant houses not to burglarize, but just to find a warm place for shelter.
In addition to homelessness, group members are said to have told stories of families being forced to live without heat and utilities for being unable to pay their bills.
The ideas discussed at the meeting to provide immediate assistance to homeless people include provision of transportation to Red Deer shelters for those in need and supply of food.
After the meeting, letters are reported to have been sent to various service groups and businesses asking for consideration of donations to the fund which is currently being administered through the Stettler Information and Referral Centre.
Group members say individual donations are more than welcome and all those willing to do so can help the effort through the FCSS office in Stettler.
Hankins said as they continue to strengthen the structure of their group, they would be in a position to apply for federal or provincial funding to bring longer term solutions to the problem.