Greg Gladue was homeless for more than 15 years. He would sometimes have enough money to stay at a cheap motel, but would more often than not spent his nights in a sleeping bag somewhere in Edmonton’s river valley.
“I am getting old… The older you get the harder it is to live on the streets, because it takes a lot of energy out of you. You’re always on your feet — hungry and cold,” Gladue said.
“I usually kept to myself and I had a good sleeping bag, a tarp, a big hockey bag, and that was all my possessions, right there. I’d move from place to place, because you don’t want to get your neighbours too mad if you stay in one place too long, so you move to another place and another place.”
This past summer, he walked north from downtown to the old Sands Hotel, now known as Pimatisiwin, looking for help.
“I know about the shelters, and Hope Mission, things like that. I didn’t want to go there because it’s dangerous in some of those places,” Gladue said.
NiGiNan Housing Ventures has been providing supportive housing for 10 years.
It has recently expanded to include emergency shelter space to help get people on their feet at the former hotel by Fort Road and Yellowhead Trail.
When Gladue arrived in the summer, he said he was welcomed. Given a bed, a private place to sleep and three meals a day.
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“I am beginning to feel like a different person.”
There are more than 30 emergency spaces that operate year-round in the hotel. Tuesday, more than 50 temporary spaces in trailers opened for people trying to escape the cold.
On Wednesday, three people were dropped off. They were displaced after their encampment at 95th Street and Rowland Road was cleared by the city.
“It’s their own space, where they can take their belongings, they can have showers, and access to toilets,” CEO Keri Cardinal Schulte said.
“Anybody who is need in need is going to find a place here, if we have space.”
Cardinal Schulte said the hope is people coming here for emergency services will eventually be able to get into permanent housing.
Staff will help people get identification, an income and help with any health-care needs.
“This is a gateway to getting a home, if they come here and they work with us and we can get all the stuff done… We will find them a home, that is what we do,” she said.
“We really do meet people where they are at.”
Gladue feels that. Earlier this week, he moved into a permanent housing unit that was part of the 50 renovated hotel rooms that opened in December. While this approach is unique, he hopes it doesn’t stay that way, and more people can get off the streets and into a warm bed.
“This place is wonderful and if they open more places like this, there will be less camps.”
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