A new pilot program designed to provide those struggling with homelessness shelter from the cold during the winter months in Canmore is a welcome addition to the community.
REST Program, which loosely stands for resident emergency shelter temporary, makes so much sense that it is surprising that it has taken this long to get it up and running. Thanks to organizers at St. Michael’s Anglican church, it is set to launch in March.
It is not a new idea, and doesn’t need to be in order to succeed at helping address homelessness issues in the community. In fact, when another local church was seeking development variances for its new building on Palliser Trail, it was promised that an “in from the cold” style program would be started and operated out of it.
Fast forward a few years and the growth in the population of those working locally and living in their vehicles provides further proof that more is needed to understand and address the lack of available and affordable housing in the community.
REST will be a big part of that solution, but it is not the only thing that is needed.
By providing temporary, emergency shelter space for those who need it, our community will have provided additional safety and protection for the most vulnerable.
Already this winter one individual who struggled with homelessness was found deceased near the skating pond. It was not the first time our community has lost someone as a result of their struggles with finding housing, but thanks to REST it could be the last.
REST supports the work being done by the valley’s Homelessness to Housing Coalition – a group that many people might not be aware of. Comprised of stakeholders across various organizations in the valley, the coalition combines efforts to understand the issue and find solutions.
The fact its work has resulted in the creation of REST is evidence that the coalition’s work is important and necessary.
COVID-19 has also affected the delivery of programs to assist those who work in the valley, but struggle to find housing. The Safe Park pilot program designed by the Town of Canmore was postponed last March as a result of the pandemic.
Now that program is set to relaunch in 2021 and will be an important aspect of understanding the issue given our dynamic present circumstances.
It is hard to say if the pandemic has changed the rental market locally in terms of availability and affordability, but by running this pilot program the municipality will be able to move into 2022 with a better understanding of what kind of program is needed for our “new normal.”
Over the past year, the municipality has also invested in a housing coordinator as part of its social recovery efforts. A warming area was also created at the Civic Centre to provide a safe space for those who may need it, and the coordinator is available in that location to help connect people with resources.
Canmore Community Housing (CCH) is also moving forward with a new Vital Homes project on Lawrence Grassi Ridge in the Peaks of Grassi, adding additional units to its inventory of price-restricted units. CCH has also launched several programs over the last year to assist with down payments and the creation of suites.
It may seem like in the past year that not much has been happening on this issue. However, with Safe Park coming back and REST launching in March, it is clear that housing is still a strategic priority for many in the community and is being done behind the scenes.