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Public gets first look at Lac La Biche transitional housing facility during open house

The Lakeland Out of the Elements Shelter Society (LOESS) hosted the event at the facility close to Alexander Hamilton Park on Saturday, April 27.

LAC LA BICHE - On April 27, members of the public were given a firsthand look at the inside of the Lac La Biche’s new transitional housing facility, which officially opened its doors in mid-January just before freezing temperatures hit the region.    

The facility, which is a partnership between Lac La Biche County and the Lakeland Out of the Elements Shelter Society (LOESS), located is comprised of five camp-trailers on seven acres of fenced, municipally owned property near the Alexander Hamilton Community Park. Although it was initially set to open its doors last November, this opening was delayed by internal utility issues along with technical issues related to security equipment at the site.  

The grand opening of the transitional facility, which provides shelter and support for homeless residents of the area, got underway at 11 a.m. A decent-sized group that included local and municipal politicians as well as Laila Goodridge, Member of Parliament for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, gathered inside the foyer of the building for the opening ceremony.  

Wally Sinclair, a Metis elder, started with a traditional prayer. Sinclair, along with Goodridge, Lac La Biche County mayor Paul Reutov and Lenora LeMay, board chair for LOESS, spoke to those who had come for the event. Following those speeches, LOESS staff took people on facilitated tours of the transitional housing facility. There was also a lunch served at noon.  

LeMay said LOESS felt that it was important to host an open house that would provide the community residents with an opportunity to see the facility and the work being done there.  

“Our tagline is it takes a community to beat homelessness, and we wanted to open our doors so that the community felt they could come by,” she told Lakeland This Week.  

Eventually, LeMay continued, LOESS would like to have programming that the community might like to join in on. The facility program, she continued, is very culturally-based, and there is emphasis on the local Indigenous culture of the area. Currently, an elder and a knowledge keeper come to the facility to work with clients.  

“Our programming will be such that when we have something that the public would like to learn as well as us, we’ll make sure that they can come and learn with us…this is very important to us, and it helps us move forward and learn about each other,” she said.  

Until moving to its current location three months ago, the Out of the Elements Society ran a single-room shelter on 104 Street near Lac La Biche’s Light of Christ Catholic School. This shelter, which had been in operation for 11 years, could accommodate 12 clients overnight.  

While the new transitioning housing facility has the same number of spaces for overnight clients, as LeMay explains, it also has considerably more elbow room. The open house, she continued, gives the public an opportunity to see how this space is being utilized and what staff envision for it moving forward into the future.  

Moving from just having the emergency mat program at the previous location to actually supporting people to find their purpose and find ways to enhance their quality of life back in the community, she stated, requires spaces to do different things.  

Over the past three months, LeMay said, while things have generally been moving in the right direction, there has been a considerable learning curve, due somewhat in part to the larger space. This, she added, means there is more area for staff to cover and ensure that clients are safe.  

“From our perspective, it’s going well,” she said. “We’re getting our roots in the ground here…finding our place here…it’s gone well.” 

When clients arrive at the facility, they first spend time in the ‘mat room’ before moving into their own space. As of right now, LeMay said, there are no clients in the transitioning housing section of the facility. 

“We’re still working on that process, and learning about it,” she said.  



Chris McGarry

About the Author: Chris McGarry

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