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

A group of Edmonton organizations that help support vulnerable people in the city is calling on officials to bring forward more options, after the Edmonton EXPO Centre officially closed its drop-in shelter program.

A joint letter signed by nine local groups, including the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights and EndPovertyEdmonton, said that the closure will lead to issues in vulnerable communities.

“While we recognize the temporary EXPO Centre was established to respond to COVID-19 needs, it’s closure on Friday July 31st is going to have severe impacts on the city,” the letter said.

“Our concern is that there will be increased loss of life, violence, abuse, and social tension.”

Read more: Edmonton Expo Centre to close as drop-in day shelter July 31

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When it announced the closure, the city said an average of 675 people visited the Expo Centre on a daily basis for a meal, a shower, to do laundry or to access medical, housing or financial support.

The large facility allowed for safe physical distancing and no cases of COVID-19 have been reported to date in Edmonton’s homeless population, according to the city.

Edmonton Expo Centre to close as drop-in day shelter July 31

Edmonton Expo Centre to close as drop-in day shelter July 31

In the letter, the nine groups said that they have a series of “immediate” requests: they want the city and Government of Alberta to respond by supporting a joint proposal for a new long-term day shelter. As well, they want local agencies to provide more funding and support to community groups that perform street outreach. The third immediate request is for “resource mobilization” to support the local groups that provide supports to the vulnerable in the city.

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“The situation in Edmonton is going to unravel very quickly in terms of safety and public health,” said the letter. “We
question the decision to move forward with the closing of the EXPO shelter at the expense of potential violence, public health and sanitation, and individual safety and security.”

The letter also calls for additional actions, including a response plan if COVID-19 affects the homeless population, as well as more temporary housing options and accessibility to masks.

It was signed by the below agencies and groups:

● Coalition for Justice and Human Rights
● John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights
● Righting Relations Edmonton
● EndPovertyEdmonton
● YEG Community Response to COVID19
● Elizabeth Fry Society
● Self Advocacy Federation
● Taccalusa Institute
● The House of Justice

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