Residence for city's hard-to-house slashes reliance on hospitals, EMS

A program designed to house the city's most desperate homeless people has dramatically cut ambulance calls and hospital stays for its residents, an Alberta Health services report says.

'Patience and compassion for our people goes a long way'

The NDP government's $1.2 billion investment in affordable housing will meet less than half the demand in Alberta. (CBC)

A program designed to house the city's most desperate homeless people has dramatically cut ambulance calls and hospital stays for its residents, an Alberta Health Services report says.

Ambrose Place opened just over two years ago in the McCauley neighbourhood and houses about 50 Indigenous people who have disabilities or chronic substance abuse problems.

All were once homeless.

The AHS report tracked medical services used by each resident before and after moving into the home.

The report found EMS calls dropped by 31 per cent, hospital admissions by 58 per cent and hospital stays by 81 per cent.

Ambrose Place, with an annual budget of $2.2 million, provides tenants access to Indigenous elders, licensed practical nurses, health-care aides, social work, recreational therapists addictions counsellor and housing support workers.

"We offer tangible things like 24-hour health-care support, we manage their medication dispensing, we have health-care aides that help with dressing and mobility issues," executive director Carola Cunningham said.

"But the real reason this place is working is because people feel like they belong. Patience and compassion for our people goes a long way."

The program is so successful its waiting list ballooned to more than 500 names within the first year, forcing the agency to abandoned it.

It now only tracks the top 10 people most in need of help, and move new residents in as spaces become available.

"We're successful because we accept people where they're at," said Cunningham.

"There's no pressure to change. But by offering opportunities to become involved in your culture again, in your ceremonies, in your way of life, helps people look at their lives differently."