Homeless shelter to provide road to recovery, SACPA hears

By Ryan Clarke

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Chancellor of the University of Lethbridge and member of the  Blood Tribe’s department of health, believes the Lethbridge shelter, the  Alpha House, may soon be able to offer more than just beds for the  city’s homeless population.

During a session of the Southern  Alberta Council on Public Affairs, Charles Weaselhead said he hopes to  transform the shelter to become a road to recovery.

“Since Jan. 2  the Blood Tribe has taken over the operations, and I think it warrants a  bit of information so that we are all on the same page,” said  Weaselhead.

“What we are doing right now is going through  incremental steps, to draw out some of the key strengths that we have as  a unit. Right now the main focus is transitioning from a general  shelter operation, to a more wellness type of operation with multiple  units of wraparound services.”

Weaselhead pointed out that of the  220 to 250 homeless people in the city, about 70 per cent of them are  Indigenous, and that concerns him.

“In my line of work that  saddens me. That is such a burden for our Indigenous population, because  not only are they over represented in the shelters, but they are over  represented in the court system. They are over represented in  unemployment, child welfare, and the list goes on.”

Looking to curb those numbers, the department of health will be looking at more ways to offer solutions to its cliental.

`Shelters, it is almost like a revolving door. They come in, they  sleep, they go back out, they come back in, sleep, they go back out.  Nothing really happens.

“The department of health, with our  resources and mandate to care for our people, we are going to utilize  the wraparound services that we have from our community, and hopefully  from the city of Lethbridge. If we don’t take care of business, the  opioid crisis to homelessness is going to overtake our young people,  communities, and our cities.”

Exploring programs like detox,  post-treatment, and community integration, the department of health will  work with its clients to get them the help they need to get off the  streets.

“We are also going to be working with wraparound  services, providing mental health workers, case managers. “We have job  skill programs, and life skill programs within our tribe. We will  continue to provide resources and programming that will help them get  back on their feet.”

With two-months under its belt running the  shelter, Weaselhead noted the difference they are seeing already and how  they hope to build on what the shelter can do.

“What we are  trying to introduce is a human aspect to the shelter operation, and to  homeless people. We have asked everybody to be patient with us. We have a  one-year agreement, if things work out we will be able to go back to  the province and rewrite the agreement for an additional year or so  forth.”

Ryan Clarke is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the

LETHBRIDGE HERALD. T he LJI program is federally funded.


Add Your Voice

Is there more to this story? We'd like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Contribute your voice on our contribute page.