A downtown Edmonton supportive housing facility that serves alcohol to alcoholics says its unorthodox approach is seeing success.

Open for one year, Ambrose Place houses 50 aboriginal Edmontonians, and provides nurses and cultural programs around the clock.

It also provides a kitchen which is fully stocked with alcohol. Residents receive controlled amounts of alcohol several times throughout the day.

It may seem like an unusual approach, but it’s proving to help patients overcome their addictions and stay off the streets.

At last count, there were more than 2,300 people living on the streets of Edmonton. Most are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

“What society has to recognize first is, this is a healthcare issue,” said Edmonton Coun. Scott McKeen. “It’s not a criminal justice issue.

“I think we’re duty bound to help these folks out.”

That’s where Ambrose Place comes in.

Harriet Erickson, one of the people living at Ambrose Place, is an admitted alcoholic. She says she’s learned to control her drinking with help from staff. Erickson said that, before entering the facility, “I thought my alcohol and my so-called friends were closer to me than my bed.”

Now in Ambrose Place, Erickson said she learned to control her drinking with help from the staff. “There is so much love, you feel like you want to burst.”

Erickson isn’t the only success story, McKeen says.

“There was one study I saw of a managed alcohol program where the folks on the managed alcohol program were actually drinking more than some of the people living on the street,” said McKeen. “And yet their health outcomes, including their liver enzymes, were improved.”

During a year of operations at Ambrose, residents have used emergency health services half as often. And there were similar results for policing.

McKeen said the success of Ambrose Place could have big implications for addictions treatment.

“Can you imagine Edmonton solving this issue?” McKeen said. “What a source of pride that would be for our community?”

But to do so requires money. The federal budget, unveiled earlier this week, boasts $3.4 billion for social infrastructure, but it’s over five years. There are no details on how much of that Edmonton will receive.

It’s not necessarily the thing that will get you the biggest headline or the biggest impact with voters,” said McKeen. “But we have to get past that.”

Erickson said she hopes other people can take advantage of the program.

“There are a lot of people here that care. I didn’t know that.”

With a report by CTV Edmonton’s Breanna Karstens-Smith