Edmonton

Coliseum Inn to offer temporary housing to Edmonton's homeless people

A 98-unit hotel on Wayne Gretzky Drive will become a temporary residence for some of Edmonton’s homeless people during the COVID-19 crisis, says Homeward Trust Edmonton.

Hotel will be leased and operated by Boyle Street Community Services

The 98-room Coliseum Inn, located on Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky Drive, will be used as temporary housing for homeless people. (Avonlea Photography/Facebook)

A 98-unit hotel on Wayne Gretzky Drive will become a temporary residence for some of Edmonton's homeless people during the COVID-19 crisis, says Homeward Trust Edmonton.

The Coliseum Inn, located a 10-minute walk from the day drop-in centre set up at the Expo Centre, will be leased and operated by Boyle Street Community Services with support from Homeward Trust and a federal government grant, says a news release.

"The Expo Centre is providing important services to community members during the day and for those needing isolation," Susan McGee, Homeward Trust's CEO, said in the news release.

"Now we are able to add a bridge housing option that further supports what we do every day — finding permanent homes for people who need them." 

Boyle Street Community Services took over the hotel on Monday with a lease that can be renewed on a three-month cycle, said Jordan Reiniger, the organization's executive director. 

People who are in the process of moving into a permanent home will stay in the hotel for a period of about 21 days. Room cleaning and linen service will be maintained in a fashion similar to other long-term hotel stays, Reiniger said.

The Coliseum Inn's proximity to the Expo Centre means people can continue to access services, which are being provided by Homeward Trust, Boyle Street and the Bissell Centre.

"Because of our location, we have been connected to this community and the organizations that serve them," said Alim Somji, executive vice-president of the Jaffer Group, which operates the hotel.

Beds in the isolation area at the Expo Centre are spread out to follow the rules of physical distancing. (Supplied by Ron Ramsay)

"Given how close it is to the Expo Centre and how that could help the teams provide services in either location, it was an easy decision."

The hotel, which was built in 1983, was the closest hotel to the Northlands Coliseum during the Oilers glory days. After the decision was made to move the arena downtown, it lost its main customer base and began rebranding as an affordable, family-friendly place to stay.

Since mid-March, all hotel bookings are dropped dramatically as people have stopped travelling. 

After the COVID-19 crisis has subsided, the hotel will be returned to its previous commercial purposes, the news release said.

Reiniger said hotels have been used occasionally in the past as part of the process of helping people transition from homeless to housed. Bridge housing not only gives people shelter, a bed and a bathroom, it also ensures they can be easily found by the case workers, he said.

"We know that ... folks, they do really appreciate that. It's a solution that works for people, which is why we were excited to jump on the idea of getting a whole entire hotel facility to be able to provide that level of support."  

McGee said rental of the site, on-site supports and resources for people while they are staying there will cost about $330,000 per month.

Funding come from the federal government's Reaching Home program as well as the provincially supported Housing First program, McGee said.

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