The Edmonton EXPO Centre has been setup as a safe space for those experiencing homelessness by the City of Edmonton, Community and Social Services, Alberta Health Services, Homeward Trust, and community partners. The Edmonton EXPO Centre closed to the public as of March 16.
One portion of the facility will provide day drop-in service from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., 7 days a week, for those without access to housing. A separate portion of the Edmonton EXPO Centre will be used as a 24/7 isolation shelter. Nearly 500 people used the EXPO Centre on its first day of operation on March 23.
“This gives us the ability in a controlled and respectful way to ensure that we are supporting our vulnerable community to move to the locations that are appropriate based on the conditions they are in,” said Mayor Don Iveson.
Premier Jason Kenney confirmed on March 20 that the Edmonton EXPO Centre will be used as an overflow location for shelters. “AHS (Alberta Health Services) will provide medical support, public health support. And community and social services, as well, will be providing support to these backup homeless locations,” he said. The Province is providing $25 million to help homeless-serving agencies respond to COVID-19.
"In its role as system planner for the homeless-serving sector in Edmonton, Homeward Trust is taking a lead role in supporting a pandemic response plan that coordinates community, health system, and government efforts," reads the COVID-19 page at homewardtrust.ca.
The Mustard Seed has opened a 180-bed overnight shelter in the Kinsmen Sports Centre because the organization's existing shelter located off Whyte Avenue did not allow for appropriate distance between mats. The new space is open daily from 8pm to 7am and is only for those not experiencing symptoms.
Iveson had urged action to protect people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. "If the virus breaks loose in a vulnerable population that will significantly impair our ability to flatten the curve within that population and more broadly," he said at a news conference.
On March 23, EndPovertyEdmonton called for "crisis income" (basic income during the pandemic) which it says could "make the difference between recession and depression, something Albertans are all too aware is possible." The income would be "provided to all Canadians, without conditions."