Edmonton police 'heavy users' program set to expand

An Edmonton Police Service program, which helps break the cycle of crime and poverty for some of the city's most at-risk offenders, is now at the point where it can be scaled up, the Edmonton Police Commission was told Thursday.

The plan is to scale up program for several hundred of the most at-risk service users, police commission told

The focus of the Heavy Users of Services program over the coming year will be to determine where the program goes next. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

An Edmonton Police Service program, which helps break the cycle of crime and poverty for some of the city's most at-risk people, is now at the point where it can be scaled up, the Edmonton Police Commission was told Thursday.

The Heavy Users of Services (HUoS) program brings together 16 social service agencies to deal with their most chronic clients — people who often suffer from addictions, mental health issues and homelessness.

The program's expansion has to be gradual, said Supt. David Veitch.

"We go from the 20-some-odd clients that we're dealing with now to what does 30 look like? What does 50 look like?" Veitch said.

The plan is to gradually build up to several hundred clients, he added.
The plan is to gradually build up the 'Heavy Users of Services' program to several hundred clients, said Supt. David Veitch. (CBC)

The HUoS project began in 2013 and was to run for three years, but has been given additional money from the provincial government to continue until June 2018.

The focus over this coming year will be to determine where the program goes next, said Veitch.

"We have to coordinate on best practices, evidence-based solutions, and put the money where it'll make the most difference," said Coun. Scott McKeen, who sits on the police commission.

There are two competing directions this could go, he said.
'We have to coordinate on best practices, evidence-based solutions, and put the money where it'll make the most difference, says Coun. Scott McKeen, who sits on the police commission. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

One is a proposal from Boyle Street Community Services to take over the old Edmonton Remand Centre downtown and turn the vacant building into a wellness centre. The plan would coordinate services and provide some additional housing.

A second proposal, pitched by Mayor Don Iveson, calls for a wellness plan that combines the work of social agencies with additional wraparound services.

"These rival proposals will come back and there may be some blend, or it might be one or the other," said McKeen.

"We have to look at what other cities are doing and what they've learned," he added.

McKeen said he believes any plan has to focus on permanent, supportive housing facilities dispersed throughout the city.

He said he has encouraged Julian Daly, the executive director of Boyle Street Community Services, to pitch the city with a more complete proposal.

"Bring us back the evidence. Show us what you're going to do, show us how it's going to work. And if he can do that, fabulous," said McKeen.