Homelessness a key election issue
City needs transitional housing, say advocates
Edmonton is making strides in its plan to end homelessness, but needs to provide a wide range of housing stock if we’re going to be successful, advocates say.
As of one year ago, the PointIn-Time Homeless count showed 1,752 people experiencing homelessness in Edmonton. About 24 per cent were unsheltered while 35 per cent had some sort of accommodation.
“We are missing some really important housing products in our community that provide support on site for individuals with more complex needs,” said Susan McGee, CEO of Homeward Trust, an Edmonton organization focused on ending homelessness.
Close attention also needs to be paid to those at risk of homelessness, which includes about 20,000 Edmonton households living in what is called extreme core housing need. That means they earn less than $20,000 a year and spend at least 50 per cent of their income on rent.
“You’re living in extreme poverty, which puts you in a housing crisis. If you have one emergency, that puts you at severe risk of homelessness,” said Candace Noble with Boyle Street Community Service.
As it stands, most of Edmonton’s affordable housing units are in established neighbourhoods including Londonderry, McCauley, Alberta Avenue, Castledowns and downtown. There’s also a cluster in Mill Woods but no further south, Noble said.
Funding for affordable housing largely falls on the shoulders of the provincial and federal government, but it’s the city’s job to maintain those units and plan areas for new projects.
“Municipalities don’t have the resources to build housing, but they have the opportunity to have a vision and create an environment where it can be successful,” McGee said.
The city could do that by updating bylaws to require new buildings to have some affordable housing units, and also by requiring developments to be closer to transit and social services.
Homeward trust Ceo Susan McGee speaks at edmonton’s city hall in March.