A new report from the City of Edmonton and Homeward Trust says “We are on the cusp of ending chronic and episodic homelessness in this city, and a modest investment can make that a reality.”
Released at the end of last week, the update to Edmonton’s previous 10-year plan to end homelessness asks for another $30-million each year to put in place a system that could find someone a place to live within 21 days of them becoming homeless (by 2022). It also asks for millions more to actually build homes. The report says about 1% of everyone in Edmonton is experiencing homelessness at a given time, with about 20,000 households at risk of homelessness because of low-income, high housing costs and other issues.
Supportive housing is one area that Edmonton has failed to make much headway on. Only 200 of a planned 1,000 homes have been built in the first eight years of our old plan. This is the kind of housing that an additional $230-million will go toward. There are other keys to the new plan though, including connecting people with specialized supports or programming they may need to avoid entering the homeless system at all (by 2019) and getting correctional and health services to stop discharging or releasing people directly back to the streets (by 2023). It also calls for more affordable housing, which could be incorporated into all new builds in the city, and income and rental supports.
Overall, the plan sounds great. It follows on Edmonton’s successes with a housing-first approach, which gets people a place to stay at the same time as helping them connect with social services or other programming they may need. 6,000 people have been housed since 2009. And it talks about a shift in approach from homeless reduction to homeless prevention. It also address the systemic problems that contribute to homelessness, including racism, inter-generational trauma of our Indigenous peoples, addiction, mental health and wellness and the failure for all of our social, health and justice providers to be working together. Vulnerable populations, including Indigenous peoples, youth, immigrants, refugees and seniors are at a higher risk of becoming homeless.
There’s a new plan. It’s got everything mapped out. It just just needs money.
Currently, Edmonton spends about $35-million on homelessness and social supports each year (this money, and money to build homes, all comes from the provincial and federal governments). The new plan calls for another $30-million each year in operational money. There’s also a request for $230-million over the next six years to build the actual homes and units for people to live in.
Since every other city in Canada is going to be making similar requests after the federal government increased the money for affordable housing and homelessness programming (same goes for cities in Alberta tapping into new money from our provincial government) the hope here is that the City of Edmonton and Homeward Trust have put together a solid enough plan to get our city to the top of the list for money.
It would help us build on earlier successes, and some of the programming might set the stage for other cities to follow our new successes. And housing people does make for success. Not just in getting someone off the street, but saving our health, police, court, and family intervention systems money. About 75% of everything spent on supportive housing plans is saved in such ways. The plan breaks down the numbers and claims the $230-million requested here for new housing will be totally offset by the same amount of money no longer being spent on those costs related to people living on the street.
The plan is also a recognition that homelessness programming alone can’t solve the issue. Homes need to be built, supportive housing needs to be staffed and resourced, and new organizational coordination is required to help keep people from ending up on the street in the first place. This plan says Edmonton can make that a reality in a few years. We’ll see if the provincial and federal governments agree.
Somewhat related to all that, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter kicked off a big Habitat For Humanity build in Edmonton. 75 new homes are going to be built in Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan.
Around the city
The Alberta government continues to modernize rules, using the backdrop of the Calgary Stampede to announce new regulations for restaurant and bar patios. It should be easier to create patios under the new rules. Now, if we could just get staggered or extended closing times…
Edmonton’s Reuse Centre is celebrating its 10th birthday. While it’s a great place to pick up massive amounts of things like all of the buttons you could ever want, it’s really a part of our waste diversion plans to keep hard-to-recycle and donate items out of the landfill.
Leduc County isn’t too happy about the proposed changes to provincial electoral districts. That’s because it would be split into seven (!) different ridings. Most of the public hearings on electoral boundaries are now fully registered (unless you want to drive to Red Deer July 24) but you can still get in a written submission with your thoughts this week.
A new billboard campaign is reminding everyone that mothers can breastfeed in Edmonton’s public spaces, including City pools, libraries and recreation facilities.
The new art on a wall between Michael Phair Park and Amiskwaciw Waskaykhan Ihtawin is getting more attention. It’s one of my favourite new pieces of public art.
The City’s launched the third of a series of art tours, with the new one offering you a chance to learn more about what you can see in The Quarters. Other tours in the series include Jasper Avenue and Churchill Square to Louise McKinney Park. The City’s also got historical walking tours you can grab maps for. And this summer, volunteers are organizing walking tours of Chinatown.
Edmonton’s City Council tries to wrap up a number of issues before a summer break (including a new transit strategy and affordable housing plans). The meeting’s agenda is online and the whole thing will stream live from Council Chambers.
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