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Navigation centre for homeless in Edmonton will stay open permanently, similar centre coming to Calgary

A province-run support centre for encampment residents in Edmonton. (CTV News Edmonton) A province-run support centre for encampment residents in Edmonton. (CTV News Edmonton)
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Provincial officials and Edmonton's police chief are singing the praises of the navigation support centre that was launched in January to support the city's homeless population.

Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee stood with Premier Danielle Smith and other government officials on Tuesday to announce the centre will remain open permanently.

Additionally, the province says a centre will be opened in Calgary to support that city's vulnerable population.

The province opened the Edmonton centre in January in hopes of connecting people living in encampments with a number of crucial services in one location.

Clients can be connected with housing and financial services, healthcare, including addictions and mental health services, receive an identification card, as well as Indigenous cultural supports and liaisons.

The centre also provides a safe space for people to store their belongings and stay with their pets.

Officials say since mid-January, more than 700 people have accessed the centre.

More than 450 pieces of ID have been issued, nearly 300 people have been connected with financial benefits, and more than 500 people have been connected with shelter and housing programs.

"Since the opening of the navigation and support centre and our joint encampment approach, there have been no fatal tent fires, no overdose deaths in encampments. Edmontonians have not been burning or freezing to death in tents." McFee told reporters on Tuesday.

"When we have members of the vulnerable community coming to our officers asking in their own volition, to go to the centre because they've heard about other successes, we know we're probably on the right track."

McFee says the majority of people coming to the centre are now coming of their own volition.

Jason Nixon, minister of seniors, community and social services also shared a story about an Indigenous woman who came to the centre from an encampment in hopes of reconnecting with her sister in northern Alberta.

"Workers reached out to the woman's sister and found out that the woman's family had believed that she had been missing and likely dead for over a decade," he said.

"Within hours this individual was provided with ID, enrolled in financial benefits, and her sister picked her up from Edmonton to bring her to an addiction recovery treatment close to home."

Nixon said details about the navigation centre in Calgary would be shared in the coming months. 

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