Edmonton Convention Centre to be temporarily used to house homeless people

On Friday afternoon, the City of Edmonton announced a new step being taken to address its commitment to ending homelessness in Alberta’s capital, declaring that the Edmonton Convention Centre in the city’s downtown will be used as a temporary accommodation site during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic created a gap in services and increased the number of people falling into homelessness each month,” interim city manager Adam Laughlin said in a news release.

“This temporary facility provides those people with safety, services, and a pathway to permanent housing.”

READ MORE: Edmonton mayor asks province for $17M in annual funding for supportive housing services 

The city has been ramping up efforts to address the homelessness issue in recent weeks after large encampments were established in the Rossdale and Old Strathcona areas.

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According to the city, there are about 2,000 people without a place to live in Edmonton, and about 600 of those are sleeping outside or “unsheltered” on any given night.

Earlier this week, Mayor Don Iveson announced the city plans to use $8 million from Edmonton’s share of federal restart funding to open and run a new centre to support homeless and vulnerable people by the end of the month.

READ MORE: Edmonton announces new $8M city-run homeless centre will open by end of October

The Edmonton Convention Centre on Friday, October 9, 2020.
The Edmonton Convention Centre on Friday, October 9, 2020. Julien Fournier, Global News

“As operators of an important community asset, we need to be open to pivoting our business to support our community and vulnerable populations as we navigate this pandemic together,” Arlindo Gomes, vice-president of venue management for Explore Edmonton, said Friday.

“We have prepared our venues to welcome guests while adhering by strict health and safety standards and all Government of Alberta requirements.”

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The Edmonton Convention Centre on Jasper Avenue near 97 Street — formerly known as the Shaw Conference Centre — contains several halls typically used for concerts, conferences, large parties and meetings.

“Given the size of our venue and our recent experience hosting an activation of this scope and scale at the Edmonton EXPO Centre, we are confident that the Edmonton Convention Centre will be a safe space for those experiencing homelessness.”

READ MORE: Edmonton-based groups call for new day shelter, more supports after EXPO Centre drop-in closure 

While some details are yet to be finalized, the city said the convention centre shelter will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will be operated by community agencies in the city already experienced in working with homeless people.

“Up to 300 people overnight and up to 400 people during the day will be able to access the space, which will open at the end of October and remain in operation until March 31, 2021,” the city said in its news release on Friday.

People who use the facility will be given a warm place to sleep, daily meals, access to washrooms, showers and storage.

Watch below: Some Global News videos about homelessness in Edmonton.

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