Edmonton Expo Centre to be used as overflow homeless shelter amid COVID-19 pandemic
EDMONTON -- The province is expected to roll out its plan to protect homeless people Friday, a day after Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson begged the government for immediate help.
Premier Jason Kenney addressed the concerns after NDP Leader Rachel Notley brought them up during question period in the legislature.
"If the virus spreads in the homeless population, some of our most vulnerable Albertans will be at risk and the pandemic will get worse," she said. "Will the premier be making that decision and offering that help today?"
Kenney responded saying the government shared both Notley's and Iveson's concerns about homeless people at risk in the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I'm pleased to inform the house that the Emergency Management Committee accepted recommendations this morning to work with cities to provide services and funding support for alternative locations for shelters, as well as backup locations for prospective quarantine," Kenney said.
He also pledged that Alberta Health Services frontline staff would be dispatched to provide medical and public health support to the City of Edmonton as it brings in new spaces for homeless people.
The plan also includes $60 million for municipalities and social services, with $30 million of that earmarked for homeless shelters and women's emergency shelters.
Kenney said government officials have been working on the province-wide homeless response plan for days.
He identified the Edmonton Expo Centre as a designated overflow location and said the City of Calgary has also identified backup locations.
In a Friday meeting, Edmonton council said the Expo Centre plan would be in partnership with Homeward Trust and local shelters, who would provide input on how and when to activate it. The plan is to have the centre ready to accept people on Monday, council said.
Community and social services will also be providing support at any alternative shelter locations, Kenney said.
It comes a day after Iveson urged the province to "make a decision now" on adding shelter capacity to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the city's homeless population.
"I’m increasingly concerned that the risk is only escalating as we await a firm decision from the province," Iveson said. "Self-isolation is almost impossible for those living on the streets and shelters have had to reduce their capacity due to social distancing directives."
Iveson is expected to react to Kenney's announcement Friday afternoon.
There are more than 1,600 people dealing with homelessness in Edmonton, according to the most recent data.
Kenney is expected to provide further details on the province-wide plan in a news conference at 3 p.m. Friday. Watch it live on CTVNewsEdmonton.ca