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Last updateTue, 23 Oct 2018 11am

Drumheller’s hidden homelessness

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Is homelessness hiding in Drumheller? That’s the question being asked by a new survey launching this fall to get an understanding of the nature and extent of homelessness in the valley.

Family and Community Support Services and partner organizations are running a rural homelessness estimation count in Drumheller as part of a province-wide initiative starting October 1. These organizations are looking to hear from those dealing with unstable living situations to voice their experiences in order to collect data on homelessness in Drumheller.

But those working on front lines in community support roles already know people here face the realities of homelessness.

“It’s as much of an issue here as it is anywhere else, but it tends to be hidden,” said FCSS coordinator April Harrison. “In the city it’s a very visual problem, which is terrible to see but in some ways it’s easier to deal with because you can see the problem. That is one of the key reasons of undertaking this study, to understand where homelessness exists in our community.”

When people think about homelessness they often imagine people sleeping rough on the streets, but the reality is there are a number of different living situations people experience which could be classified as homelessness or at-risk of homelessness. Trouble at home with a spouse or family member may cause someone to be couchsurfing, someone may be sleeping in their car due to domestic violence, or someone may be unable to pay rent and be at risk of homelessness due to their finances.

“You’d be shocked how many are in what we call ‘housing insecure situations’ here,” says Salvation Army family community services coordinator Janessa McAuley. “(The survey) allows people to give their voice. The more awareness there is the less resistance or stigma there is over people going through this.”

While homelessness is a well understood issue in major centres like Calgary, data is currently limited for homelessness in rural and remote areas of Alberta. The survey is a part of a province-wide initiative to get better data on the problem, with 21 rural/remote communities across Alberta participating in the project, making it one of the largest initiative of its kind ever completed. A Homelessness Task Force has been established in Drumheller to promote the campaign and lead the estimation. The task force will also review the results and develop an action plan to address homelessness as it appears in Drumheller.

The anonymous survey will be available from October 1 to October 30 and available at the Salvation Army (which includes a free lunch on Thursdays at noon), Alberta Supports, AHS Disability Services, Big Country Victim Services, Drumheller Public Library, Drumheller Family Literacy, the RCMP detachment, Drumheller FCSS at town hall, the FCSS Seniors Office, Growing Opportunities, MH Enterprises, and the Wheatland Crisis Society. It takes about 10 minutes to complete, is anonymous and confidential. The survey is a joint partnership between FCSS and the Alberta Rural Development Network.


Snow much fun

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While drivers around the valley may have been upset to see up to 20 centimetres of the white stuff fall on Tuesday, at least the kids at Greentree School were having a blast with the early snow. From left is Zoe Kelly, Ryan Storch, Landon Armstrong, Nicholas Chayer, and Connor Martin, busy during recess on October 2 building perhaps the first snowman of the season.

Delia honours Canada’s first female municipal leader

Violet Barss c1920
    Almost 100 years ago, Delia was put on the map for breaking ground as Violet Barss became the first women in Canada to head a municipality in Canada.
    The year 1916 was a historic year as women finally earned the right to vote in Alberta. In the small community of Delia, members of the Delia Women’s Institute were determined to see a woman run for council. That came in December 1919, when Barss was one of three councillors elected in the municipal election. This caused a spontaneous parade of women supporters on the streets of Delia.
    At the Organizational Meeting in January 1920 Barss was chosen as Reeve.
    The Delia and District Historical Society and the Alberta Historic Resources Branch will be unveiling a sign at 11:30 a.m. on October 13 at the Delia Museum. The sign, sponsored by the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, recognizes Violet McCully Barss who was Reeve (the title used for mayors of villages at the time) of Delia from 1920-1922.
    Tim Showalter of the Delia Historical Society explains that Al McCully, Barss’ great-nephew, and his brother was cleaning out their parents home in Delia, and found material pertaining to this. They brought it to the museum. They donated much of the material and, with some gentle urging, the society began to look at how to recognize this.  
    “We started to gather information and contact different archives and were able to get some things like correspondence between her and the provincial government when she was reeve and other sources that helped to nail it down. It wasn’t just a story,” said Schowalter
  Violet Barss was a human dynamo and became an influential person in Alberta. She sat on the Board of Governors of the University of Alberta from 1923 to 1940, was Convenor of the Immigration Committee of the Provincial Women's Institute, and sat on an advisory committee on immigrant women’s issues to the Minister of Agriculture. She is mentioned in several editions of Who’s Who in Alberta.
    She was an active member of the community. She was trained as a registered nurse and served informally as local health nurse for most of her life. Many residents recall getting vaccinated by her and the very large needles used. Some have questioned if the needles had not dulled over time.  Violet continued her commitment to the Women’s Institutes and made presentations about health issues at meetings of the Women’s Institutes in the region. She also was active in supporting CGIT, speaking contests for young people, her church, and volunteered for many charitable fund-raising campaigns.
    Violet Barss was presented, in 1936, at the height of the Depression, with a silver cup from the community for her selfless service.
    Other events on the day: October 13 is the Delia Agricultural Society annual Fall Fair. Doors open at 12:00 noon to a variety of exhibits and activities.


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