$3.75 million increase at Grande Prairie Coordinated Care Campus

·4 min read

An additional $3.75 million will be directed to the city’s Coordinated Care Campus (CCC), council decided Monday.

It brings the total cost of the facility, part of Grande Prairie’s strategy to address homelessness, to $19.25 million.

The funding came as part of council’s amendments to the 2022 mid-year capital requests.

One million dollars from the sale of the old fire hall will go to the project. Another $2.75 million will be borrowed from the Future Expenditures Reserve with plans to be repaid from federal grant funding, which is currently awaiting approval.

The CCC, located in the former Stonebridge Hotel near the Prairie Mall, is a long-term housing solution that will facilitate multiple services and supports to ensure residents can sustain housing.

The project has come as part of the city’s Homeless Strategy (2021-2023), designed to address chronic homelessness in the city.

In 2021, the city bought the former hotel for $12.5 million and budgeted $3 million for the renovations, said the city.

The CCC project has faced challenges: A fire alarm at the building in March revealed the historical fire separation did not meet present-day building code requirements. Residents of CCC were then moved into trailers in the facility's parking lot.

“The mid-year capital budget request of $3,750,000 will allow for the completion of required renovations while meeting the critical need and timelines,” the city told Town & Country News.

Currently, the CCC houses 24 residents with a capacity of 28, said the city.

Once complete, the facility will have approximately 109 beds, said coun. Grant Berg at Monday’s meeting.

The city said it is on track to having residents back in the building for November.

Len Auger, Community Advisory Board (CABH) co-chair and president of the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre, gave council an update this week on the homelessness issue in the city.

He questioned whether the city, province, and federal governments were doing enough to help the homeless.

“I still see so many young people out there, even some older that are homeless; they are the same ones from last year,” he said.

Auger noted the city has seen an increase of new people that are homeless; particularly an increase in young women.

“We all need to understand that homelessness is ever more complex.”

He said the leading cause of homelessness in Grande Prairie is the cost of living, addictions, and more complex needs such as mental, social, and medical needs.

“We also get a lot of people that come from out of town (such as) discharge plans for individuals exiting from the Peace River Correctional Centre,” said Auger.

Council asked Auger about how the CCC could help the problem.

“There is a long-drawn-out process for people to get approved to go into CCC; you have to meet certain standards, and not all of our people can meet (them), so they'll still be outside,” said Auger.

Resources for the homeless in Grande Prairie continue to be difficult as the Oasis Overnight Shelter closed its doors at the end of June.

In a social media post, the Saint Lawrence Centre said it would accommodate up to 13 additional people, and the Wapiti House has added an additional 10 overnight spaces due to the closure.

At the July 5 Corporate Services Committee meeting, city coun. Dylan Bressey addressed his concerns about funding the CCC from the Future Expenditures Reserve, especially if the federal government did not approve grant funding.

“If we did not receive any grant funding, then it would deplete the future expenditures reserve,” said Danielle Whiteway, Corporate Services director.

She noted that if the funds were to be depleted, it would not affect any current projects.

“There are very good grant opportunities available; we are in communication with the federal government on a regular basis regarding this project,” she told Town & Country News.

“We're quite confident in some level of funding to be approved and granted back to the city from the federal government.”

Despite the cost increase, the city says it remains below budget compared to other projects in the province.

“We believe that we are under budget in terms of cost per door,” said Wendy Hughes, city Protective and Social Services director.

She noted the cost per door in a Lethbridge supportive housing unit is currently at $320,000 per room, while the CCC is currently at $121,000 per room.

Whiteway noted the sale of other city-owned properties could also go toward the cost of the CCC.

City departments such as enforcement services, community social development, some members of community policing, and the emergency response team will be moving into the CCC, said Whiteway.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News

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