People experiencing homelessness in Edmonton who have been discharged from hospital emergency departments will now have a new place to recover.
The Bridge Healing Transitional Accommodation Program is designed to improve health outcomes for patients who have sought care in hospital emergency departments across the Edmonton region.
The centre, with 36 transition beds, will provide people without a home a clean, safe place to recover from illness or injury.
The facility, at 160th Street and 100th Avenue, will help clients transition to appropriate community supports, including housing, physical health, and mental health and addiction services.
Lengths of stay will vary depending on the patients' needs.
The program is the first of its kind in the country, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said during a news conference Thursday.
"Many of us take for granted the ability to return from the hospital to a warm and safe home where we can recuperate," Smith said.
"For homeless Albertans, this is not an option, so their healing may be hampered by the harsh conditions that they live in."
The program is a partnership between Alberta Health Services and Jasper Place Wellness Centre, a non-profit organization that helps some of the city's most vulnerable.
AHS has committed to annual funding for the project.
The beds will be split between three Jasper Place Wellness buildings on the site. The first 12 beds will open this month.
The program could begin accepting its first clients as soon as this week, Smith said.
In helping some of the most vulnerable populations in the city, it will also have benefits for the wider health-care system, Smith said.
"Providing people with housing after they are discharged from an emergency department means that they have one less thing to worry about while they're healing," she said.
"This also means that beds in the emergency department open up for other patients.
"There are significant demands on our emergency departments and this partnership will serve the dual benefits of improving health outcomes while also ensuring that wait times are improved."
Discharge plans for eligible patients will be co-ordinated between hospital staff and workers at Jasper Place Wellness Centre, Health Minister Jason Copping said.
The number of people struggling with poverty and homelessness continues to surge in Edmonton, pushing the city's shelter system past capacity this winter.
The city estimates there are upwards of 2,800 people in Edmonton experiencing homelessness, with around 800 individuals sleeping outside on any given night.