Homelessness and support for unsheltered populations is a complex issue and one that requires a collaborative effort from all community partners, including government, business, and community organizations. Most importantly, it requires compassion and patience from the community at large.
The City of Spruce Grove offers several programs to support those experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless.
- The Community Outreach Team provides in-person support to individuals who are unsheltered, at risk of being unsheltered, or experiencing multiple barriers to well-being. A team of trained, professional community outreach staff works directly with individuals who require assistance by focusing on locations that are frequented by vulnerable residents.
- The Community Homeless Winter Emergency Response is a joint effort between the City and several community partners to provide a place for unsheltered people to escape the cold winter weather.
- The Regional Housing Program, a partnership with the Town of Stony Plain, provides support to eligible residents to address housing instability and produces a Regional Housing Guide to provide residents with an overview of housing options and opportunities in the community and the region.
- Spruce Grove Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) provides preventative social programs and initiatives to enhance the overall well-being of individuals, families, and the community.
Unsheltered updates - City Council meetings
- Unsheltered update (Regular Council Meeting, August 21, 2023)
- Unsheltered update (Governance and Priorities Committee Meeting, June 19, 2023)
- Unsheltered recommendations (Regular Council Meeting, May 23, 2023)
- Unsheltered update (Governance and Priorities Committee Meeting, May 15, 2023)
- Unsheltered update (Regular Council Meeting, May 8, 2023)
- Unsheltered update (Governance and Priorities Committee Meeting, April 17, 2023)
- Unsheltered update (Regular Council Meeting, April 11, 2023)
- Unsheltered update (Regular Council Meeting, March 27, 2023)
- Community Hub Update (Committee of the Whole Meeting, March 20, 2023)
- Unsheltered update (Regular Council Meeting, March 13, 2023)
- Unsheltered update (Regular Council Meeting, February 27, 2023)
What is the current state of homelessness in Spruce Grove?
This is a relatively new challenge for our community. This is the first time in recent years that we’ve had to address homelessness and supports for the unsheltered on this scale. Homelessness is a problem for the entire community, and it requires us all to work together to address it. As of February 2023, there are roughly 40 people in Spruce Grove who meet the criteria for chronic homelessness. An additional 14 people are defined as being at imminent risk of becoming homeless. Most of the homeless population are Spruce Grove residents and over half have begun the process of applying for housing, financial aid, government identification, or other support services.
What is the City doing to address homelessness?
The City is continuing its efforts to secure a partner organization, location, and funding for a permanent supportive housing facility in Spruce Grove. In May, 2023, City Council approved a recommendation to transition the Community Hub from a physical location to a mobile outreach model of service to support unsheltered individuals and those at risk of homelessness. The City has also launched several programs to provide support for unsheltered populations. To learn more, visit the Community Homeless Winter Emergency Response, and Regional Housing Program pages.
Homeless people make me feel unsafe, what should I do?
Many people are uncomfortable with visible homelessness and hardship. This can lead to heightened perceptions of aggression, or complaints from individuals or businesses about the presence and conduct of people experiencing homelessness in their communities. It’s important to remember the act of being homeless in and of itself, is not illegal. The great majority of unsheltered people are not addicted to drugs or alcohol, are not involved in criminal activity, and are simply trying to get back on their feet.
What about the safety of our neighbourhoods and facilities?
The City has taken several steps to ensure our neighbourhoods and public places are accessible and safe for all residents.
Recently, RCMP and Enforcement Services have increased patrols of the area surrounding the Community Hub including King Street, 5th Avenue and Agrena Road. The City has also increased the number of staff on duty at the Agrena. Staff will be clearly visible and will conduct regular checks of the front lobby area, seating areas, and bathrooms. Illegal activities will not be tolerated and the RCMP will be called.
Can police arrest and charge those involved in criminal activity like drug use, theft, or vandalism?
If you see illegal activity happening, no matter who it is, report it to the RCMP. Even when an immediate response, or an arrest, by the RCMP is not possible, reporting instances of criminal activity allows the RCMP to identify themes, times, and locations that will help prioritize both reactive and proactive enforcement activities.
It is important to understand that being homeless in and of itself is not illegal. However, all of us, including those who are homeless, must follow laws for the public safety and welfare of the entire community. This includes laws related to illegal drug use, assault, and theft.
Legislative changes at the federal level have made it extremely challenging to charge and convict those experiencing homelessness when they are found to be active in criminal activity. It is extremely important, however, to continue to report any illegal activity to the RCMP.
Why isn’t more being done by the City?
Housing (shelter/homelessness), mental health supports, and addictions supports are a provincial and/or federal government responsibility. When there is a lack of provincial/federal support in these areas, the impacts are felt most acutely at the municipal level, which is not equipped to address these complex social needs. Simply put, municipalities like the City of Spruce Grove don’t have the resources to deal with this on our own. But we do have an obligation to support a caring and safe community for all – this includes our residents who are housed and those who are unsheltered.
But I saw on social media….
The City is aware of misinformation being spread online and through social media regarding the unsheltered population in Spruce Grove, the Community Hub, and the supports that we provide. Some examples are:
MYTH: Significant numbers of unsheltered people are coming to Spruce Grove from out of town.
FACT: The majority are Spruce Grove residents and over half have begun the process of applying for housing, financial aid, government identification, or other support services.
MYTH: The Community Hub was a homeless shelter.
FACT: Overnight accommodations were not available. The facility was open for a set number of hours each day.
MYTH: The Community Hub was a supervised drug consumption site or needle exchange site.
FACT: It was not designed to serve this purpose.
MYTH: the City is turning a blind eye to negative behaviours in our community and our facilities.
FACT: RCMP and Enforcement Services are increasing patrols of the area surrounding the Community Hub including King Street, 5th Avenue and Agrena Road and the City has increased the number of staff on duty at the Agrena. Staff will be clearly visible and will conduct regular checks of the front lobby area, seating areas, and bathrooms. Anyone found to be causing a disturbance or participating in illegal activity will be asked to leave. In some cases police or Enforcement Services will be called.
What can I do to help get more resources?
While we are trying to address the situation locally, we need to put more pressure on other levels of government to take action and provide necessary supports for all our residents. Lack of funding by the provincial government for affordable housing, mental health and addictions treatment at the local level places further strains on municipal responses to help those experiencing homelessness. Residents can also make their concerns known to their provincial and federal government representatives (MLA and MP) and advocate for more support in these areas.
Please email us.