Going to bat for those in need

By Geoff Lee

July 26, 2017 3:58 PM

Michael Stonhouse, chair of the board of the Lloydminster Men’s Shelter, spoke about the need for a unified approach to housing the homeless at a Rotary Club of Lloydminster luncheon on Monday. Heather Gray, the shelter’s executive director, noted about half of shelter clients have mental health and addictions issues. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO

Michael Stonhouse, chair of the board of the Lloydminster Men’s Shelter is a man with a plan for homelessness in the Border City.
Stonhouse is advocating all housing agencies and stakeholders in the city to take a cooperative and partnership approach to housing the needy in the city.
“Government funding depends on having a unified approach,” Stonhouse said at a Rotary Club of Lloydminster luncheon on Monday.
That’s the situation for the shelter that gets 82 per cent of its funding from the bordering provinces with Saskatchewan paying a per diem rate while Alberta provides block funding.
With the downturn in the economy and the summer season, the shelter is running at half capacity and reduced funding.
“Lloydminster has been absolutely incredible in stepping up to the plate,” said Stonhouse adding “we’ve only just begun.”
He went on to say his vision is to include all of Lloydminster to provide cost effective solutions to housing the homeless.
Stonhouse referenced the men’s shelter, Interval Home, housing agencies for Saskatchewan and Alberta plus Carleton Housing and Metis Housing Group among the agencies concerned with housing the homeless.
“We have a whole bunch of housing agencies that are each working on a piece of the pie, but different pieces,” he said.
He noted the shelter, Interval Home and Metis housing already meet together regularly as a group.
“We need to see how everyone fits together and where the gaps are,” he said.
Stonhouse said once the City of Lloydminster releases the data of a housing-needs study, that would be the time to create a bigger vision to shelter the homeless.
“I’m hoping when we see the report we say ‘okay here’s where we go from here,’ ” he said.
Stonhouse hopes the city or one body will champion the cause based on similar models in Leduc and Edmonton.
He said the city has the authority and access to funding.
“We need a housing first model with supportive services,” he said noting the underlying issues behind homelessness is mental illness and addictions.
“It’s a presenting issue at the men’s shelter, but even more so with the visible homeless, the street people.”
He estimates there are about 165 people in Lloydminster living on the street.
He said almost all of the people who live on the street would have mental health or addictions problems which makes it difficult for them to get housing on their own.
His grand vision extends to having qualified staff to help shelter users deal with mental illness and addiction.
North Battleford is the nearest centre that provides treatment for mental illness.
Stonhouse said his objective at Rotary was to share the need and a wider vision of where we might go together referring to stakeholders in the room.

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