Police, Alpha House, others launch East Village hub intended to support 'evolving social needs'

·2 min read
A new hub in Calgary's East Village neighbourhood will see police and other city partners collaborating 24/7 inside the basement of the St. Louis Hotel.  (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)
A new hub in Calgary's East Village neighbourhood will see police and other city partners collaborating 24/7 inside the basement of the St. Louis Hotel. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)

Calgary police, Alpha House and other city partners have launched an initiative that they say is intended to enhance safety in the East Village.

It follows a similar Stephen Avenue "safety hub" that opened late last year. The East Village hub is a three-year pilot project funded by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation and the City of Calgary.

Police and social services will work in a shared space in the basement of the St. Louis Hotel, collaborating around the clock — but the hub is not a place for the public to report incidents.

"It's going to be a space that will enable officers and agency partners to work collaboratively in an area with high calls for service," said Deputy Chief Chad Tawfik at a launch event held Thursday.

Mike Symington/CBC
Mike Symington/CBC

Social agencies like the Alpha House's Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) team, which offers supports and transportation for unhoused people, will work together with police to do safety planning and try to resolve complex issues among the city's most vulnerable.

"I think this is sort of symbolically but also practically ensuring a better outcome for our communities, particularly around the situations that community and the broader community don't always understand," said Kathy Christiansen, executive director of the Alpha House.

Chaz Smith, the founder and CEO of BeTheChangeYYC, a street outreach group that connects people with housing programs and shelters, said it made sense to create a "multi-pronged" approach to issues that are tied to mental health and addictions.

Julie Debeljak/CBC
Julie Debeljak/CBC

But ultimately, he said, he would like to see more housing support because of mental health concerns that emerge when people are experiencing homelessness.

"Being hungry and thirsty, and all the trauma that [they have] lived through for a very long time, kind of puts people in that fight or flight situation of survival," Smith said.

"Then they develop anxiety and depression and all sorts of other mental health [issues]. Then we see the substance misuse that comes out of that as an attempt to self-medicate. Ultimately, if we were able to capture that population and rapidly house them with support, we wouldn't be seeing the need for these types of services."

The hub is set to open Aug. 10.

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