Streets Alive will not get federal funding to do outreach services at encampments this summer. City council voted down providing up to $215,460 annually from Reaching Home funding to Streets Alive Mission for 2023-2026 at its March 7 meeting.
The decision was made with a 3-6 vote, with those opposed saying there was not enough information for them to support the allocation.
“I need to see a strategic plan,” said Councillor John Middleton-Hope. “Let’s get this right, let’s not do this quick and I know there is a time crunch here. We have had nearly a year to debrief this, to research it and to prepare our response for this spring and council is now being put in a position where we look like the bad guys because we are not going to fund a program that quite candidly is not fulsome in its explanation in what it hopes to accomplish or how it proposes to do that.”
Councillor Jenn Schmidt-Rempel said she would not support it because the request for quotation documentation did not specifically address Indigenous programming. The outreach funding would have combined two services into one after the Canadian Mental Health Association stopped providing outreach in Lethbridge — Schmidt-Rempel said she was not comfortable with the separate programs being combined.
According to the report submitted to council, rejecting the proposal leave only municipal funds for outreach services. This could result in a less robust scope of work or intermittent availability of services.
“This of course has arisen from a significant rise of encampments in our community over the past summer and underscores the urgency for comprehensive housing supports in Lethbridge,” said councillor Mark Campbell. “This is about outreach, this is about helping people that need that help and Streets Alive has been around for a long enough time in the city.”
Campbell voted in favour, along with Councillors Jeff Carlson and Belinda Crowson. Carlson said it is important to have services in place before warm weather returns and it is better to hold the service provider accountable through reviews later than to not have the support at all.