According to Homeward Trust, in 2014 Edmonton held 2308 homeless people, and many of them spend a lot of their time in the downtown core which is now home to Rogers Place.
Jenny Kain is the City’s Director of Family and Community Supports. She says they are taking the opportunity to increase awareness through public education, but that’s not all. They’re also encouraging social agencies to direct vulnerable people who want to work, to look at training and employment opportunities in the new development.
Kain says that the work that they’re currently doing to address issues of homelessness and the lack of available housing will continue, “through our partnership with REACH and the 24/7 Crisis Diversion teams. We’ve worked with them to align the resourcing of the outreach teams with some of the critical dates with Rogers Place and the projected attendance.”
Kain says there are many public spaces through the new development, and in order to make it a welcoming and inclusive experience for all, the department of Family and Community Supports are taking part in the training of people in a public facing role at the new arena.
“We want to make sure that the interface between people is really positive. We want to create an inclusive and a welcoming downtown that everyone feels welcome in. We are working with Rogers Place around training for staff and as well with our city colleagues that will be in positions that will be supporting the work at Rogers Place.”
Rick Daviss is the Executive Director of the Downtown Arena Project, and while he says he wants to work with Edmonton’s vulnerable population, he knows there’s going to be an adjustment.
“There’s certainly no intention or desire to push the individuals out or to be seen as a ‘we’re here now so you can leave.’ It’s more of a welcoming or inclusionary, and how can we be better neighbors.”
He says both private security and police will be taking more of an outreach approach rather than harsh enforcement.
“They’re taking more of an approach of a more understanding compassionate role as to a…this is not an enforcement issue this is a, ‘here’s an individual who needs some help, needs some services,’ how do we better connect that individual with the appropriate service or personnel to help them with their issues?”
While Kain is hopeful that many indigent people will take advantage of training and employment opportunities in the development, Daviss says, with the downturn in the economy those jobs will go fast.