A temporary place to call home after a hospital visit will soon be available to a handful of homeless Edmontonians, and this is just the start of something bigger.
Alberta Health Services in partnership with(JPWC) created the Bridge Healing Transitional Housing Program which, in short, will give the homeless a place to go after being released from the Edmonton hospitals emergency department. The pilot project is the first of its kind in the country and will first focus on outpatients at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. The space allowed has a total of 36 beds to start with.
In a press release, the Alberta government said that homeless people who are also battling a chronic illness or health problem are often more susceptible to complications and repeat emergency department visits.
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“The program will help people find permanent housing that meets their needs, while ensuring they are connected to the right community and health-based resources to maintain that housing and build lives they are proud of.” said Taylor Soroka, co. -Founder of JPWC.
During the 30-day window, workers will help people find financial support, obtain identification if necessary, and help with health care needs, such as referrals for clinical detoxification and residential treatment, all under one roof.
Although the program is planned to see people graduate from the program, Soroka was quick to explain that it’s a pilot project, each individual client will have specific needs, and if some require more than a month to assess those needs, so be it.
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“We want to show that the model works,” he said, adding that there is always room for change as they uncover needs they might not have thought of in the first place.
“Historically, speaking from a transitional housing perspective, we know it will work, but as a housing program with Alberta Health Services, let’s prove it and then grow.”
Dr. Louis Francescutti, who also spoke at the press conference on Thursday, said the 36 beds are just a start, and once the program starts to show its value, which he believes would be instantaneous, he would like to see that the pilot program grow to 108 beds, since it would create a “good dent” to help the vulnerable population.
“Especially if we can move patients every 30 days, 108 beds times 30 tells you that we can start to impact thousands of people,” said Dr. Francescutti.
“But the most important thing is to open this up, show that it works and then scale it up and this can be scaled up across the province and once it is, we can repatriate patients from Edmonton to whatever community they come from.”
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Asked if other provinces or cities have inquired about the program, Dr. Francescutti said not yet as it has just been disclosed, though he hopes others will duplicate the program once metrics show trickle-down effect with the impact it has not only for people. themselves, but also for waiting times and health services in the long term.
AHS said it expects the first patients to be emergency discharged and admitted to the Bridge Healing facility near the end of January.
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